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September 06, 2012
Prince Claus Award for Mrs Widad Kawar
The Prince Claus Fund in Amsterdam, a fund for cultural development, has awarded its 2012 awards. The laureates include Mrs Widad Kawar for her passion and commitment in rescuing and preserving the disappearing art of traditional dress making and embroidery in Jordan and Palestine.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Amman, Jordan, is happy to announce that the Prince Claus Fund has awarded a price to Mrs Widad Kamel Kawar, born in Tulkarem, living in Amman, for her dedication to preserve the disappearing art of traditional dress making and embroidery in Jordan and Palestine. Her passion and commitment rescued and preserved important cultural heritage that otherwise would have been lost forever.
Mrs Kawar's work distinguishes itself by the highest standards of quality, dedication and intellectual qualities in describing and ensuring the accessibility of this art form.
Widad Kamel Kawar is not just a collector of traditional Palestinian and Jordanian dresses, costumes, textiles and jewelry: she owns the world's largest collection of embroidered garments from Palestine, along with all the clothing accessories and jewelry that were worn and made in Palestine. Her superb collection also includes examples of the textile artistry of Jordanian, Syrian, Bedouin and other Arab cultures.
The elaborately embroidered dresses are still frequently worn by women in the rural areas, as well as by upper class urban women during more traditional and/or national celebrations. For many Palestinians, the tradition of making and wearing such clothing has been interrupted. Communities have been dispersed by war and conflict and their forms of dress are now determined by what Kawar calls "camp culture", with little space for the expression of beauty.
Dress making and embroidery is an old tradition in Jordan and Palestine. Each village and region has its own characteristic colours and stitches. The pattern, stitch and quality of the material all convey where and by whom the dresses were made. Through changes in patterns and stitch, historical developments such as increasing contact with European countries can be traced. Without words, these dresses tell stories that include historical and geographical detail.
Furthermore, by emphasizing the links between regions, rather than their differences, a bridge between particularly Jordanian and Palestinian culture is being built. Kawar's collection literally weaves together the various histories of the area. She has published widely on the topic of cultural heritage and dress making so as to raise awareness with the general public of this art.
In 2011, Kawar organised an exhibition in cooperation with the Netherlands Embassy: "Dutch lace caps meet Jordanian and Palestinian embroidered caps; a cultural journey through Dutch and Jordanian headwear history".
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