Elian Aboudi’s tie to her people hangs by a thread: the green, black, and red thread she uses to connect them in a global cross-stitch project.
Aboudi is a Palestinian-Jordanian, now living in Alberta, who grew up watching her mother and aunts embroidering tatreez together over coffee and cookies. Today she’s recreating that communal crafting to develop an image of the Palestinian diaspora in an ever-growing series of cross-stitched squares, handmade by people around the world and brought together in an enormous quilt-like tapestry.
Tatreez stitching is indelibly linked to Palestinian culture, tracing back as far as 3,000 years, its rich collection of symbolic patterns and motifs migrating from rural clothing to ceremonial garments and textiles. In late 2021, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), added tatreez to its lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, recognizing its importance as a symbol of Palestinian history and tradition.
However, war and displacement have scattered the practitioners of tatreez. Their struggle to survive often meant there was little time or means to pass on the hand-stitching techniques, and the art form became simplified, industrialized, and dispersed. Aboudi, one of many Palestinian women around the world reviving traditional tatreez, gives lessons at the Canada Palestine Cultural Association branch in Edmonton. For the various generations of people who come out to her classes, it has been a way to commune and socialize through a pandemic while learning, or relearning, a part of their heritage. For Aboudi, tatreez is a form of meditation, therapy, and chronicling.
All images courtesy of Elian Aboudi.