Japanese Designer Decorates Kimono Belts With Palestinian Embroidery

Two cultures combined in a traditional costume

Traditional obi Maki Yamamoto with tatreez embroidery.
Palestinian Embroidery OBI Project

Maki Yamamoto develops the connection between Palestinian and Japanese cultures in the Palestinian Embroidery OBI Project: traditional obi, wide fabric belts for fixing kimono, are decorated with Palestinian tatreez embroidery.

The initiative sprang from a collaboration between a Japanese designer and Palestinian women from refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza who hand-embroider obi designs. Yamamoto came up with the idea for the project after her first trip to Palestine in 2013, which she remembers fondly. Starting in 2014, the designer began to collaborate with the non-governmental organization The Society of Inash al Usra to find embroiderers and artisans to bring ideas to life. Maki Yamamoto’s mission is to shed light on Palestinian and Arab culture in general.

Dawlat Abu Shaweesh is one of thirty women in the Al-Amari refugee camp who learned the art of tatreez embroidery from her mother at the age of ten and considers the craft part of Palestinian identity. Some question the appropriateness of the use of Palestinian traditions and Japanese costume, but Yamamoto emphasizes that since the Great Silk Road, kimono design has been influenced by Persian patterns, Uzbek suzani embroidery, Indonesian batik, African printed fabric, and similar techniques. Women see the combination of tatreez and obi as a form of dialogue between cultures, and as soon as COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted several Palestinian women will fly to Tokyo on a cultural exchange program hosted by Yamamoto.