My name is Sarah Al Zanoon. I currently work for the State of California in Tax Branch. I have lived in the Sacramento community for 30 years.
I am half Venezuelan and half Palestinian.
My dad’s grandparents fled their villages in historic Palestine after the first Nakba and my father’s family eventually settled in Kuwait. The Gulf War in Kuwait erupted shortly after I was born in 1990. In order to circumvent conflict and prosecution, my family filed for political asylum in the United States and we were granted residency status. Although grateful to seek asylum and refuge in California, my family and I were now displaced half way around the world from our original country of origin. Being a refugee in diaspora came with identity challenges as my family and I were trying to assimilate to western culture. In the midst of transitioning to the life in America we as a family lost our language and it was replaced with English. Furthermore we lost bit and pieces of culture as we assimilate to our new American life.
Please tell us what we are seeing in the images and what does it means?
These are images of me wearing a Palestinian thobe. Thobes are well-known and well-loved traditional Palestinian dresses that are wrapped in intricate embroidery, or tatreez, to give each dress a unique pattern. I am wearing one that resembles the village of Askelon, (now known as Ashkelon) where my Grandmother is originally from.
Each garment is meticulously embroidered with a variety of symbols including birds, trees and flowers. The embroidery is sewn with silk thread on wool, linen or cotton, and the choice of colors and designs indicates the woman’s regional identity and marital and economic status.
Please tell us why it is important to you to continue and pass down this knowledge to future generations?
Palestinian Thobes are significant because it is preserving my heritage. The dress itself is a historical artifact paying homage to my grandmother’s village and landscape of the village she is from. Askalon is one of the oldest seaports in the region. Dresses from this region may have aquatic motifs like fish or nets on the dresses. Garments are particularly important to me, because they are tangible pieces that can be preserved hundreds of years. Furthermore the stitching practice is carried on from mother to daughter and it is a way to connect with other women, family and the community. The practice of Tatreez transcends borders, connects generations and preserves heritage. Tatreez demonstrates the relationship with history through the story of needle, thread and cross stitch.