Material Power: Palestinian Embroideries at The Whitworth

Material Power: Palestinian Embroideries
The Whitworth
24th November 2023 – 7th April 2024

Get here sustainably

Find Out More »

Palestinian Embroideries
Image: Polaroid, 1973, from the archive of Inaash Al-Mukhayim. Courtesyof INAASH

The Whitworth presents Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery, an exhibition exploring the historical life and contemporary significance of Palestinian embroidered craft. This ancient practice is characterised by exceptional beauty and intricacy – some of the finest dresses, known as thobes, carry over 200,000 stitches. It remains an important living tradition and the most prominent cultural material of Palestine today. More than 40 dresses and other embroidered objects from the Whitworth’s collection and loaned from essential collections in Jordan, Jerusalem and the West Bank will be on display for the first time in the UK.

The exhibition will map Palestinian embroidery’s evolution over the past century: from rich village tradition, transformed by the advent of modernity, to its politicisation and critical re-interpretation by contemporary artists. Based on research by the exhibition’s curator, Rachel Dedman, Material Power will explore how embroidery embodies female labour and resilience and reflects pivotal moments in Palestine’s history.

Detail of dress from Beit Dajan, 1930s from the collection of George M. Al-Ama © the Whitworth, The University of Manchester. Photography by Ruth Wedgbury.

Material Power will offer audiences in Britain, for the first time in more than 30 years, an opportunity to engage with Palestinian cultural heritage through the intimate lens of clothing. The exhibition will further be enriched by rarely-seen archival material and works by contemporary artists, including Mona Hatoum, Khalil Rabah, Mounira Al Solh, Aya Haidar, Majd Abdel-Hamid and Maeve Brennan.

Since the gallery opened, textiles have been a significant part of the Whitworth collection. The gallery is home to an internationally important collection of around 25,000 dress and textile objects from across the world that date from the third century AD to the present, including embroidery from Palestine and the surrounding region. The gallery has a long history of exploring lived experience through our exhibitions, which draw from international textile collections. Material Power offers a unique opportunity to focus on the lives and experiences of women in Palestine through these intimate embroideries.

Get the latest news from Oxford Road in your inbox