Building Community Through Tatreez

Posted On:
01 July, 2012

Just as generations of Palestinian women before them have done, 15 to 20 Arab girls came together at Northeast High School each Friday afternoon for six weeks, to chat and get to know one another  while learning the art of tatreez, a traditional form of Palestinian embroidery typically handed down from mother to daughter. Women have taught their daughters the general technique as well as details like stitches and material that were specific to their villages and social classes. However, the Northeast High School girls, who hail from different Arab countries, have never done embroidery, even though they may have seen their mothers embroidering, they have not tried it themselves before.


When approached by NEHS faculty about ways to bring together some of the Arab girls, Al-Bustan enlisted the support of Maisaloon Dias to use art-making as a way a to build community.  Dias, who also works as a social worker, learned tatreez from her mother.  Over these few weeks, she managed to create a sense of community based on the art form among a group of girls who barely knew each other before. She began by introducing the students to traditional patterns like the tree, feather, and Ramallah flower. They each worked on embroidering a square, transforming it from a simple piece of fabric into a memento of a cultural tradition and a form of personal expression.