This book is a record of the 50 years Widad Kamel Kawar spent researching, collecting and preserving part of the heritage of Palestine. This endeavour evolved into the Widad Kawar Collection, the largest to date of Palestinian traditional dress and accessories, comprising more than 3,000 items.
In the following chapters Kawar presents the story of how the collection evolved and she introduces the life stories of the women who produced the beautiful costumes it contains. For her, each item calls to mind an individual or a place: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a family, a house, a village, a town, a field, a market. Each item was worn on special occasions, happy and sad, that marked the owner’s life. Much of Widad Kawar’s knowledge stems from the personal narratives of these women whose embroidery and dress-making skills she so admires.
Threads of Identity is a history of Palestinian women told through aspects of popular heritage, focusing on traditional dresses but also including textiles and rug weaving, rural and urban customs, jewellery, cuisine, and festivities. The interviews with women who lived through the traumas and changes of the 20th century are a contribution to oral history, augmenting standard historical accounts. While most writing about the Middle East concentrates on politics, her book focuses on the dignity of ordinary people, and women in particular, bridging the gap between the major events of history and everyday life. With this book Widad Kamel Kawar pays homage to Palestinian women.
February 2, 2013, in a ceremony at the "Tiraz Centre", Mrs. Widad Kawar received the Prince Claus Award from Ambassador Piet de Klerk. Mrs. Widad Kawar received the Prince Claus Award for her valuable contribution to preserving Palestinian, Jordanian and wider Arab cultural heritage and her...
JOURNAL OF PALESTINE STUDIES - Maintaining Legacy 'Threads of Identity'
December 01, 2011
Traditional Arabic or Palestinian arts have tended to prioritize poetry, with visual culture relegated to a supporting role. And yet, as Widad Kamel Kawar's book Threads of Identity demonstrates, the exquisite artistry of Palestinian and bedouin women's needlework, more than most art...
REAL TRAVEL ADVENTURES - Book Review of Threads of Identity
November 01, 2011
Threads of Identity by Widad Kamel Kawar is a most fascinating compendium of the heritage of Palestine through costumes and fabrics. The author is one of the foremost authorities on the subject and her collection of stories, photographs of costumes, weavings, rugs, and fabrics...
WASHINGTON REPORT - Traditional Palestinian Costume: Origins and Evolution
November 01, 2011
With roots thousands of years old, Palestinian costume is a rich tradition that evolved over time to form through color and pattern a visual language revealing the wearer's heritage, ancestry, and affiliations. During the 1948 Nakba, however, Jewish and then Israeli forces demolished hundreds...
HAARETZ - The 'Queen of Palestine'
September 09, 2011
A 'non-meeting' in the Jordanian capital with the woman who owns and knows more about Palestinian dresses than anybody else, but is convinced there is no one left that even cares about them.
AMMAN - I'll call her the Queen of Palestine, the woman who flat-out refused an...
TIMEOUT BEIRUT - Book Review of Threads of Identity
July 25, 2011
There’s something just so wonderful about ‘Threads of Identity’ – an intelligent, visually delicious compendium of women’s traditional costumes and life stories that have been collected by Widad Kamel Kawar over a lifetime of research in...
THE JORDAN MUSEUM - Book Acknowledgement of Threads of Identity
May 01, 2011
Mrs. Widad Kamel Kawar is a member on the Board of Trustees of the Jordan Museum. Her continuous efforts and support towards the Museum are extremely valued and appreciated. We would like to sincerely thank her by acknowledging her new book titled Threads of Identity. A synopsis...
THE JERUSAELM FUND - Book Review of Threads of Identity
April 12, 2011
One of the leading authorities on Palestinian costume, Widad Kamel Kawar takes a unique approach to the topic in her latest book, Threads of Identity. While this handsomely-illustrated, 449-page volume offers a beautifully photographed compendium of rarely seen examples of...
SAUDI ARAMCO WORLD - Book Review of Threads of Identity
March 01, 2011
This very beautiful book about costume and textile is quite different from most works on the subject, as the cover suggests, with its picture of a tasseled fringe and a series of photographs of women. A great deal of invaluable information is given about the varied articles of...
LIBRARY BOOKWACTH - Reviewer's Choice: Threads of Identity
March 01, 2011
Threads of Identity: Preserving Palestinian Costume and Heritage is the culmination of years of research and documentation of Arab costumes, textiles, and artifacts that impact Palestinian women's daily lives. Costumes, jewelry, other such artifacts reflect a vital yet rapidly...
THE NEW YORK TIMES - Women in the Orient
February 11, 2011
PARIS — The vivid neon lights act like beacons, leading past ancient artifacts carved out of wood and stone, toward an explosion of vivid color on elaborate robes.
The triangular lines of the high-tech lighting...
REVIEW BY CHIVVIS MOORE - Threads of Identity
February 01, 2011
In this spectacular volume Widad Kamel Kawar has created a work of art -- through photography, narrative and oral history -- as valuable as the women's legacy she describes. Stunning colour photographs focus on the thob, the colourful and richly hand-embroidered traditional costume produced and...
AL GHAD - Threads of Identity Book Launch in Amman
December 11, 2010
Kawar Signs Threads of Identity With a Presentation on the History of Women Who Have Reflected a Social Fabric in the Palestinian costumes.
The researcher and historian of Palestinian and Jordanian heritage, Widad Kawar, attended a ceremony to sign her book...
ADDASTOUR - Kawar Signs "Threads of Identity" and Shows Her Bias to Society and Heritage
December 11, 2010
Mrs Layla Sharaf has described the book Threads of Identity as a humanitarian and artistic piece of work on civilization, which aspires to preserve the national memory of a people. In the speech she delivered during a book signing ceremony under her patronage in the evening of the day...
AL JAZEERA - An Illustrated Book on Palestinian Heritage: Threads of Identity…Beauty Illustrates Steadfastness
December 10, 2010
The author Widad Kawar held a book-signing ceremony at the Orthodox Club in Amman for her English-language book Threads of Identity, which illustrates in pictures and photographs Palestinian heritage and is published by Rimal Publications. The ceremony was very-well attended by...
THIS WEEK IN PALESTINE Book of the Month - Threads of Identity
December 01, 2010
A small country like Palestine has a great variety of traditional costumes, and it took me a long time to publish the material I have collected on them because I wanted my research to be as complete as possible, and I have tried to cover every location. So much of our cultural heritage has...
THE JORDAN TIMES - "A Feast for the Eyes" Book Review of Threads of Identity
January 03, 2010
A rainbow of colour, a wealth of information, centuries of traditions and skill, but above all, a precious point of reference for any serious ethnologist or historian - all in one book, product of “a young, privileged woman just out of school” who witnessed the birth...
Both of these beautiful books are written by women who know their material well. Mrs. Kawar's has much more social history. [amazon reader review]
Threads of Identity
Laurel Doermann "world justice" (Ohio) December 14, 2011
This is a refreshing way to present information about Palestinian history and traditional clothing. One can almost hear the voices of the people who lived the history and embroidered or wore the clothes. Well illustrated, easily read and worth the price. [Amazon Reader Review]
Extraordinary Documentation of Palestinian Culture
Marjorie Ransom [Amazon] September 24, 2011
Threads of Identity is the most beautiful book I have seen on folk culture. Widad Kawar has studied all the handicrafts of the peoples of Greater Syria, or Bilad al Sham, in general and the culture of Palestine in amazing depth. Her knowledge of the output of the area has greatly enriched her documentation of Palestinian costumes, textiles and silver jewelry, placing them in the local context. We are indebted to the photographers and the designer for the book is a masterful combination of old photos and rich, color reproductions of the costumes and jewelry. It is a sensual feast for the eyes and the mind.
I have had the privilege of visiting Widad over the years, marveling at the extent of her collection and admiring her discipline in working steadily on her wonderful progression of books, articles and lending for exhibits. We all benefit from her perseverance.
The dresses reflect the personalities of Palestinian women, their artistry with the needle and their rich lives. By telling the stories of the women who made the dresses Widad brings them to life and enables us to share their experiences.
Widad has set a very high standard for those of us who seek to do similar justice to traditional cultures.
-Amazon Reader Review by Marjorie Ransom (Washington, DC)
Threads of Identity: Preserving Palestinian Costume & Heritage
Margarita Skinner August 24, 2011
Not only is this book about `threads of identity'. It is also about `threads' that speak volumes to us and tell us 1001 stories. It is an absolute fabulous book with a treasury of information, depth of human feelings and an excellent reference book. This book is the bible for historians, ethnologists and associated researchers. The photographs are stunning and the colours most soothing to the eyes.
The tradition of embroidering dresses is one of the finest art forms passed on through generations of Palestinian village women. The dresses have special meanings and symbolisms and show the women's skill in embroidery. Not only will the reader learn in great detail of the lavish embroidery but also of the jewellery and the social and symbolic importance of them all. The author is often and rightly called: `Umm `l-ibas al-falastini', mother of the Palestinian dress. Her knowledge of old dresses is unique as is the richness of her own collection.
The interviews with women who owned some of those dresses are like showing the other side of the coin.
Buyers of this book for research or for a coffee table book will not be disappointed.
-Amazon Reader Review by Margarita Skinner, Switzerland (author)
Olea Yimoria June 04, 2011
This book is amazing. I couldn't believe how incredible the embroidery is. This is a dying art form that needs to be rescued. The photos are clean and in vivid color. I just wish they had done more photos close up to show the ornate details.
It has a wonderful overview of the various reigons, and tells of the traditions.
This is going to get a special place on my bookshelf, and I highly recommend this to anyone who loves embroidery.
This book, however does not teach the embroidery techniques themselves, but clearly shows in some cases, both the front and the back of the garments.
-Amazon Reader Review by Olea Yimoria.
At Last, Information on Widad Kawar
Nancy T. Hernandez June 02, 2011
Y.K. Stillman, in her book on Palestinian Costume and Jewelry, mentioned contacting Widad Kawar for aid in completing the collection of the University of New Mexico. Stillman mentioned that Kawar's collection was the most extensive in the world, on the subject. Here is an opportunity to learn how that collection came to be. The personal experiences of individual village women add to the context of Palestinian costume.
The only fly in the ointment is the constant reference to the Israeli Government as the Occupation, revealing the general Arab ignorance of the ancient claim that Jews have to the land of Israel. As revealed by Noni Darwish in her book Now They Call Me Infidel, Arabs are not taught the complete history of the region. Many, if not most Arabs believe that the presnce of a Jewish State began in 1949 with the formation of the modern State of Israel. There being no knowledge of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judea.
This last aside, the book is a valuable addition to information available on Palestinian Costume.
-Amazon Reader Review by Nancy T. Hernandez (San Mateo, CA, USA)
Moving and Important
Jennifer March 15, 2011
I cannot stress how much I was moved by Widad Kawar's story telling. The art of Palestinian embroidery is disappearing fast. Young Palestinian women no longer make embroidered dresses and the culture is dying despite the best efforts of many organisations to try to keep it alive. This is deeply knowledgeable, caring and yet simple stories told without stress or affectation. The way the stories and photographs of the dresses are woven through the narrative is beautiful, though each would stand well without the other. I bought it as a coffee table book but it lived beside my bed until I had read every word, and then my husband also read it.
-Amazon Reader Review by Jennifer "JennyB" (Garran, Australia)
An immense, deep, and thought-provoking history
Midwest Book Review March 05, 2011
Threads of Identity: Preserving Palestinian Costume and Heritage is the culmination of years of research and documentation of Arab costumes, textiles, and artifacts that impact Palestinian women's daily lives. Costumes, jewelry, other such artifacts reflect a vital yet rapidly diminishing factor of traditional culture; Threads of Identity examines not only the traditional dresses, textiles, and weavings but also the rural and urban customs, cuisines, and celebrations. Color photographs of textile artifacts on virtually every page and interviews with women who witnessed key events (and terrible traumas) of the twentieth century distinguish this immense, deep, and thought-provoking history. Highly recommended.
-Amazon Reader Review by Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
Bonnie Neely February 21, 2011
Threads of Identity by Widad Kamel Kawar is a most fascinating compendium of the heritage of Palestine through costumes and fabrics. The author is one of the foremost authorities on the subject and her collection of stories, photographs of costumes, weavings, rugs, and fabrics from different regions of Palestine seems to be all inclusive. Her intention with the book is to document and preserve the history of Palestine through the 20th century as women experienced and remembered it in oral tradition. Women who survived the traumas and persecutions of this recent history endured many hardships while continuing their survival through the creation of fabrics for their family's use and for sale. This is an important book in that it documents a country, not from the perspective of war and politics as most histories do, but from the perspective of the common people, mainly women, who have always had to be the backbone of the family and society during hard times. And the fabrics have always been a woven history of a place. A beautiful as well as interesting book I highly recommend.
-Amazon Reader Review by Bonnie Neely (Top 1,000 Reviewer)
Widad Kawar's Collection unveiled
Sofi Makkari December 17, 2010
Through this book, we not only see one of the largest and most impressive collection of Paletsinian embroidery and jewelry, it tells the human stories behind each dress from the women who wore them and lived their lives through them.
The book is so beautifully produced that it can easily be a coffee table book, but its one of those books that you just cannot put down.
-Borders Reader Review by Sofi Makkari, Boston, MA, USA.
What a perfect gift
Sara Tamanian December 17, 2010
Wow wow wow!!! This book is a treasure. I received a signed copy by mail from a friend of mine who attended the book launch and I just had to send the same to my friends. Its a fantasic book. The publisher has both soft and hard covers, and both are reasonably priced for what we get. I just love this book.
- Borders Reader Review by Sara Tamanian, London, UK.