TIRAZ is the home of the Widad Kamel Kawar dress collection, the most complete collections of both Palestinian and Jordanian dress. It is also home to the largest collection of Syrian dress outside of the country. The museum showcases Arab costumes from the 19th and 20th centuries, with a total collection of over 2000 costumes and weavings. TIRAZ is a Jordan-based institution which aims to preserve the Widad Kawar collection, and promote the vibrant Palestinian and Jordanian cultural heritage and Arab traditions.
“The most beautiful and profound form of Palestinian history was written by the women of Palestine embroidered those dresses that were colored by the sun”
Tiraz is an interactive museum for an elegant and extremely rare kind of social history; a history which is tactile and visual, woven into fabric, and related though the work of feminine hands.
It has taken over fifty years of commitment and vision to build the Widad Kamel Kawar collection, as a home for one of the most significant archives of Arab costume heritage in the modern era.
Tiraz is more than a space to remember. It is a place to restore and renew, what could have become lost.
The Widad Kawar collection contains over 2000 costumes and weavings. Each piece belongs to a particular time, a particular tribe or village, with an individual story to tell.
Tiraz is a place to exhibit and combine these stories for the public in Jordan and the Middle East, as well as for cultural centres and institutions around the world. To be celebrated and understood, and collection must be seen and experienced.
Words alone cannot capture the spirit and immediacy of the embroidered patterns; the sensitivity, diversity and the richness of their forms.
Tiraz curates, describes and explores these forms, expressed in the seams of each garment, in a way which historians and visitors from all over the world will come to appreciate and remember.
A Living Archive:
Tiraz is an uplink to memories and histories that an entire generation has never had the chance to experience, but is eager to rediscover. Our mission is to remember, restore and revive the vibrancy of Palestinian and Arab costume heritage in a new institutional setting which is accessible, open, and fun.
The collection is preserved in a specialized environment, to slow the passage of years and decay. A living archive is being created- based on research and oral testimony – to ensure that the collection remains fully documented for researchers in the region and world-wide.
Tiraz is not only a place for what has been. It is a place for remembering and learning the value of what still exists to this day; a place where cultural forms are experienced as well as studied, and the traditional finds its place alongside the modern.
A large part of this is working with local experts and organisations to revive traditional handicrafts, by running specialized workshops on embroidery and handicraft techniques, with a focus on economic viability, creativity and mentorship.
History has been communicated in many forms; from the architecture of the pyramids, to the gold leaf of Byzantium, to photography, to art and even to film in the modern era. It is time that costume, textile and embroidery – specifically that created in the area of the Levant over the past two centuries – becomes recognized as a valuable, colourful and intricate form of history in its own right.
Tiraz works to communicate the context and importance of the Widad Kawar Collection both within the Arab World, and internationally. The work has a visceral quality, demonstrating beyond all doubt how the tribes, peoples and countries of this part of the world have long been inter-connected with each other, and with the rest of the world.
This is why Tiraz has developed and is expanding an educational program on Arab textile heritage for schools, universities and the public. It is why we are commissioning research and publications on the role of traditional handicrafts and the women who created them.
Ultimately, we see the museum as an organic space for a form of culture and memory distinct to Arab culture, and universal in its human scope.
There was a time, when from Nablus to Bethlehem, Ramallah to the West Bank, from Madaba to the Jordan Valley, a story of tribes & memory was woven into embroidery. Between the 19th and 20th centuries variations in style, colour and pattern of dress were used to reflect cultural and family affiliation, birth, marriage and death, as well as social structure.
After the 1948 and 1967 wars this form of embroidery became a national symbol for Palestinians in particular. Relegated to refugee camps and scattered across the corners of the Middle East, these imaginative patterns woven into fabric began to evoke, like the orange trees of Jaffa or the village life of Nablus, a beauty lost through War.
As modernity advanced and a temporary situation became ever more permanent, the memory of societies and townscapes decked in the colour of these fabrics began to fade. In the monochrome fog of a never-ending struggle old ways of being became ‘traditional’, and the dress of a previous generation became at best a ‘luxury’, and at worst an anachronism.
Few at the time realized that within these seemingly quaint robes precise information on social morphology, on the cross-fertilisation between Jordanian, Syrian, Bedouin and other Arab cultures, as well as geographical and other ethnographic details had been encoded in a visual language.
The Widad Kawar costume collection represents a story of human beings, and a form of history itself, woven in thread.
Created over the course of a lifetime, the collection includes more than 2000 pieces of wedding garments for women and men, everyday wear, children’s garments, head veils and dresses for women and men, as well as jewellery and amulets, home utensils and religious robes. It ranges from the simple and homespun to forms of craftsmanship, for example the use of gold and silver plated thread, which are extremely rare.
The Collection is about much more than preserving the past. It is about renewing it, for many generations to come.
In addition to several other regional exhibits in Jordan, Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. As well as, other international exhibits, including but not limited to the United Kingdom, France and Lebanon.