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Palestine

The Keffiyeh, theft & the death of meaning

keffiyeh

The Keffiyeh, the traditional head dress made and worn in Palestine, where over the years it became a symbol of Palestinian self-determination and struggle during the 1930’s against British occupation up to the present. Now the Keffiyeh has been appropriated by Westerners who may or may not know of it’s origins and may not even care. Keffiyehs of all colours are sold on the streets of London and throughout Europe becoming on the one hand a metaphor for the general disinterest in the Palestinian struggle and on the other representing the dilution of historical and cultural meaning. If you cannot wear one and understand what you are wearing then don’t wear one at all because that’s like stealing – its like the theft of a people and a mockery of their identity and being.

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I remember standing by the donation table watching people’s expressions change as they walked by. Most did their best to look the other way. Some expressed clear disgust at the pleas for donations. Others stopped to ask questions. A far fewer number actually donated.

At one point a tall, thin, attractive young woman wearing a black and white keffiyeh around her neck was spotted in the distance making her way towards us. One of the volunteers nudged his friend: “This one may donate.” When the girl was close enough he held out his donation bin with a smile and asked her whether she could spare some money for the children of Gaza. In response the girl looked momentarily confused and then scoffed, straightened her keffiyeh so it fit better into her fashionable leather jacket and hurried away, her stiletto heels clicking frantically against the pavement.

Rageh Omar presents Made In Palestine which looks at the origin of the Keffiyeh and its appropriation as a cheap trendy western fashion accessory now manufactured in China. Even Israel is now appropriating and rebranding it as it’s own – first they steal the history then the land and now the Keffiyeh.

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5 Comments

  1. Joshua Shahab Nouril

    This is a great article and video. It’s been pissing me for years as I’ve seen that after invading Iraq and Afghanistan we’ve added insult to injury by taking cultural items of those bombed and made a fad of them. A few years ago it was also these middle eastern sandals women wear become all popular. I was thinking, “my grandmother wore those when she moved here from Iran.” The keffiyeh if worn in the west was and should be a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Not a fashion piece.

  2. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    Joshua@ When the keffiyeh is not appropriated as a fashion accessory in the West – it is taken as a symbol of terrorism!

  3. Its shame but the west has economic power, therefore it has the means of influencing the perceptions and opinions of people. They can easily tranform the symbol of generations of struggle into a fashion item or worse terrorism..

  4. jane doe

    Given that I almost never see women in the Arab world wearing them I get the fealing it is unintentially ironic when western women wear them. Western women wear them in solidarity with the “oppressed” arab men who have no problem with opressing of women and gays!

  5. Comment by post author

    Sokari

    Janedoe@ Do you fear your real name? Good point though I would add that women and gays are also oppressed by men in Europe, the Americas and other white dominated regions. There is a significant rise in homosexual related hate crimes here in the UK over the past 2 years and also violence against women!