Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The keffiyeh, Intifada and picking grapes in Piedmonte

This weekend, I met Sabrina and Michela. We were working together to harvest grapes, but spent more time eating, drinking and sharing stories. I got chatting to them because they were both wearing the keffiyeh, the traditional headress usually worn by Arab or Kurdish men. The distinctive woven checked pattern of the keffiyeh is very ancient and originally came from Mesopotamia, where it represented either fishing nets or grains of wheat.

Sabrina is wearing the classic black and white check kefffiyeh that became such a symbol of Palestinian resistance and national identity in the late 1980s, during the Intifada or 'shaking off'.
She told me: "Non sono revolutionaria ma simpatizzo," which probably sums up how a lot of people feel about wearing such a powerfully symbolic piece of clothing. Michela wears her scarf not for its 'radical chic' but for its colour, softness, warmth and the fact that it stops her from getting earache. She bought it two or three years ago from H&M children's clothing range.

Today, this symbol of Palestian identity is largely imported from China. The last producer of Palestian-made keffiyehs went out of business in 2006.

On my map, I've sewn a piece of keffiyeh (this one picked up in a New York street market) onto a piece of the Middle East. I'm still struggling with how to reconcile the immense power and significance of this cloth with the fact that it is so ubiquitous and almost meaningless in other ways. But maybe this is the fate of all great symbols.

1 comment:

  1. Ciao Sarah!
    Your blog and expecially your idea is nice and the little pieces of maps that I can see in the photos are wonderfull!
    Thanks for your interest in our scarves, I'll follow the develope of the map :)