Widad Kawar

Palestine 1931. Lives and works in Amman.

Widad Kawar was born in Tulkarem before moving with her family to Bethlehem. The vacations she spent in her mother's village in the 1940s shaped her awareness of village life in relation to clothing and knitting. From there, she began her journey of documenting Palestinian folklore with the first pieces of her collection which had been given to her by one of her relatives: two dresses dating back to the 19th century. While working for UNRWA and other relief organizations, she volunteered to help in the Palestinian camps in Jordan, where she became familiar with the daily lives of refugee women. Over the course of more than 60 years of documentation of Palestinian folklore, Widad Kawar collected more than 3000 pieces. These include silver jewelry and accessories, such as head covers and belts, amongst other items that women prepared for their weddings, such as dresses and embroidered cushion covers. Each of these signifies a specific time period, tribe, village or anecdote that tells the story of a people in Palestine, Jordan or the Levant. This great effort was accompanied by the publication of a number of research and documentary books, such as Threads of Identity, Costumes Dyed by the Sun, Memories in Silk and Palestinian Embroidery, co-authored with Tania Naser. She also organised a number of exhibitions around the world. She founded Tiraz: House of Widad Kawar for the Arab Dress, a permanent headquarters for her collection and a non-profit organization aimed at documenting the heritage of Palestinian and Jordanian fashion and sharing it with the public. In 2013, she received the Dutch Prince Claus Award for her efforts at preserving heritage.

Widad Kawar is a member of the Darat al Funun Honorary Board.