Palestinian History Tapestry Exhibition 24-28 Sept 2021

Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association and the Palestinian History Tapestry Project collaborated to exhibit 48 of the spectacular tapestries to the exhibition in Oxford Town Hall.  350 people visited the exhibition over the four days and it was a great success.     

“Fantastic exhibition. Very enlightening and beautifully presented. I now understand”

LJ, comment in the visitors' book

We had an interesting and enjoyable opening event with several speakers who are involved with the projects and to give a context to the exhibition these are some notes of the speeches that were made:

Tony Richardson the Chair of ORFA explained that the tapestry is an important part of twinning.  “We want to link people with people and the tapestry helps us do that. The tradition of embroidery is at the centre of Palestinian cultural tradition.”

Tony Richardson
Nikki Marriott of ORFA
Jihan Alfarrar at the opening

Jihan Alfarrar, the co-chair of the Palestinian History Tapestry Project reminded us that it is 10 years since its inception.  That the Project took its inspiration from the Xhosa people’s Keiskamma Tapestry now on display in the South African Parliament House. The Project has provided an opportunity for women in Gaza to speak with and work with stitchers in the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. It’s a connection for women who have never met.  We learnt that as they contribute to the tapestry, women have been compensated for their work which is an important help in their daily lives. Jihan pointed out that the tapestry “is a living thing, 100 panels now but still growing”, and that these works of art “teach a lesson from history”.

The hope is to see the panels on display in a free Palestine, just as the South African (Keiskamma) Tapestry is on permanent display in the Parliament House in Cape Town. For now, Oxford is the Tapestry’s home.

Steve Goddard

Steve Goddard (Deputy Lord Mayor of Oxford) formally declared the exhibition open. He remarked on the sheer length of history represented in the exhibition and the combination of many different styles of embroidery.  He said that Oxford is “proud and honoured to be the home of the tapestry”.

Prof Avi Shlaim

Avi Shlaim (Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy).  Prof. Avi Shlaim underlined the importance of the exhibition as a cooperative venture between PHT and ORFA.  As a proud patron of both organisations, he explained that he shares in the underlying commitment to justice for the Palestinians. He described the challenging times facing Palestinians confronted as they are by an extreme and vicious form of Imperialism in the guise of Zionist settler colonialism.

He explained that support and sympathy for Palestine is more important than ever.  That Britain in fact bears the largest share of responsibility for the loss of Palestine. 

Avi explained his view that:  the best possibility for change comes from civil society, from the BDS movement for example. The BDS movement aims to end the occupation of Palestinian land and to provide the right of return to their homes for Palestinian refugees. This is the proper context for the work of ORFA and PHT. The poignant images of the tapestry have provided work for women in Gaza and the West Bank. The tapestry has provided connections within the West Bank, divided as it is into enclaves by the Apartheid Wall, it brings people together.

“Thanks a lot for organising this exhibition. I am very interested and very happy to see that here - as a Palestinian - (Palestinian) women’s lives in Oxford city. I’m grateful for that and thank you very much.”

HK, in the Visitors' Book

Members of Help the World Oxford at the opening

“…… An expression of a people’s history through art is such a powerful tool. The information in the captions does not attempt to incite or judge, but presents the facts, leaving the reader to reflect and contemplate. Thank you.

HA (University of Oxford Museums)

All photos on this page by Alexander Clovis