2 Palestinian refugees supported by Al Badia

LEBANON | 2019

SECTION OF DRESS: Traditional Cross Stitch

One of the first commissions on the dress, that impacted the project deeply.

Text written by Kirstie Macleod

There are 2 beautifully embroidered shoulder pieces on the dress, created in Lebanon in 2009 by 2 female refugees supported by Al Badia, a Najdeh Association program and commercial outlet enabling Palestinian refugees to earn a small income by stitching traditional embroidery.

Al Badia's products are an important source of income for women in the refugee camps who work either at home or at workshops set up as part of the Nejdeh embroidery project. Al Badia offers a range of articles including cushion covers, table covers, napkins, wall hangings, bags and purses, scarves and shawls, skirts, blouses, vest and waistcoats for men, abayas and traditional Palestinian dresses (see link below).

It was one of the first commissions on the dress, and communication (over email) was quite difficult. The work was sent quickly but sadly after 11 years I am yet to learn the names of the 2 ladies who embroidered the panels, and understand more about the motifs in the embroidery they created. I do however have a photograph of the women and am hopeful that one day I will be able to properly credit and collaborate with them.

Here is an excerpt from a beautifully written article ‘Stitching a Homeland: Palestinians find refuge embroidering for al-Badia’ by Stephanie Saldana for the Daily Star Lebanon, that explains a little of how important and significant embroidery is within the Palestinian culture.

“….Though these women may never see Palestine, to embroider is to understand that in the world of cloth, and perhaps in reality, Ramallah and Hebron have different cyprus trees, Bethlehem and Jerusalem have different roses. Even the “gates of heaven,” a traditional Palestinian stitch, rise differently depending on your origins….”

See the full article here: https://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Art/2001/Dec-14/100629-stitching-a-homeland-palestinians-find-refuge-embroidering-for-al-badia.ashx

For more info, to buy products or to arrange commissions please the website: https://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/300/360/362/najdeh/albadia/


A huge thank you to all who have given their time, energy, enthusiasm, advice, experience and financial support to the Red Dress project over the years.

In addition to the institutions below, funding has been gratefully received from a number of private donations and 441 individuals around the world via 2 Crowdfunding campaigns in 2020 and 2022.

The Red Dress is one of the most power pieces of clothing I have ever seen
Angelica Colleluci, Head of Design & Productions at Ozwald Boateng
The Red Dress in its final incarnation, a magnificent, regal robe, symbolises the empowerment of women through the creation of something beautiful, something which began with bowed heads and tired fingers but also with faith and joy, an openness and willingness to be a part of something which they could not see at that time but in which they could believe had meaning and worth connecting with other women around the world
Lady Alison Myners, Chair of the Royal Academy Trust 2020
The Red Dress is in some respects similar to Mail Art, the populist artistic movement centred on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s – but on a larger scale – the journey of the work is part of its identity, process, and in fact function. A signifier of the temporal and physical nature of the process inherent in the creation of the piece. The surface of the dress layered with embroidery slowly transforming into a specific topographical map – completely particular to the work’s journey – and reflective of the burgeoning sculptural landscape of the object
Paul Black, Artlyst 2015
It’s her (Kirstie’s) red silk Dupion bodice and voluminous skirt created for the Red Dress that fully demonstrates her commitment to embroidery and the immense respect for the international community of makers
Denna Jones. Embroidery Magazine 2010
I can't remember when they embroidered that piece of silk (2018?) but I feel that something has changed since. The fact that they could embroider what they wanted and that it is appreciated has given them some strength, some confidence that I didn’t feel so strongly before. Last year, I sent them a drawing and asked them to “interpretate" it the way they wanted; again it came back with a lot of emotions, another beautiful story. Thank you for giving them this opportunity
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa (supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA)
This is both an extraordinary work of collective art and profound and eloquent social commentary. It is also an example of how potent the Attire language is capable of becoming
Attires Mind (Fashion Blogger) 2020
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