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Palestinian Refugees Take Centre Stage In This Abu Dhabi Exhibition

On the occasion of Abu Dhabi Art 2020, the UAE collaborated with social enterprise 81 Designs and design studio Naqsh Collective for a rather nostalgic virtual exhibit. Entitled “A Thobe Story,” the exhibit features a collection of 10, Palestinian culture inspired, garments made by native craftspeople.

The collection of the traditional thobe garments features patterns that reflect Naqsh Collective’s stories of Palestinian cities; Gaza, Acre, and Jaffa. More interestingly, the conceptual collaboration was created by female-led initiative, 81 Designs and Naqsh Collective to convey the evolution of the thobe over time, whilst the designs revere rich Arab history and culture.

Nadine Y. Maalouf, who co-founded 81 Designs with her mother, Nisreen El Tibi Maalouf, said in a statement about the exhibit, “The synergy between 81 Designs and Naqsh Collective is rooted from our ideal to preserve tradition through the time-honored embroidery technique Tatreez. Through our collaboration, we aim to showcase the artisanal talents, while providing a platform for regional artists and designers to showcase their art in a different medium.”

Nadine and her mother, Nisreen, founded 81 Designs in 2015 and since then, have provided work opportunities to Palestinian women who were living in South Lebanon’s Ain El Hilweh camp. These inspiring women are behind the empowering “Thobe Story” collection.

The collaborative partners for the project, Naqsh Collective is also a female-led enterprise helmed by Jordanian sisters, Nisreen and Nermeen Abu Dail, who wanted to implement their Palestinian heritage within the collection of the traditional thobes. “Our attempt in creating a Palestinian thobe is to imagine living our missing experiences of our beloved Palestine like jumping off Akka’s cliff and going on a fishing trip by Jaffa’s Port, and more. The thobes will connect with grandmothers and can be passed on from generation to generation,” said Nermeen.

“A Thobe Story” will be presented at this year’s virtual Abu Dhabi Art. Each thobe from the collection is priced at $10,000 and can be viewed via private showing, a public viewing, or virtually online. 

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