'Taking Palestine Everywhere': A modern twist to deep-rooted olive woodwork traditions

'Taking Palestine Everywhere': A modern twist to deep-rooted olive woodwork traditions
Taking the traditional olive tree from Palestine, Bethlehem-based jewellery company Nadya Hazbunova is the work
3 min read
13 July, 2017
Nadya Hazbunova jewellery at London Palestine expo [TNA]

Bethlehem takes pride in their traditions in olive woodwork. It is one deeply rooted in the Christian past of Bethlehem and the history of the Palestinian city. Now one family from Bethlehem has taken this tradition to a new level with echos of past woodcraft designs and strong Palestinian nationalist aesthetics.

Olive wood carvings and crafts in Bethlehem started in the fourth century following the construction of the Nativity Church, which is said to have been built where Jesus Christ was born.

On Palm Sunday, Christian pilgrims carry olive tree branches commemorating the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and the olive tree itself is hailed symbolic in all three Abrahamic religions.

Palestinian designer Nadya Hazboun started jewelry design company Nadya Hazbunova in Bethlehem to reflect her pride in her Palestinian heritage.

This is evident in her designs, which revolve around cultural symbolism from Palestine and Bethlehem.

"[My vision] is to give the ancient traditional Bethlehem handcraft of carving beautiful olive wood a modern edge, allowing it to be more funky and accessible for people all around the world," she said.

"It will give [all] the opportunity to carry a little piece of beauty from our Holy Land with them all the time".

Nadya Hazbunova designs at London Palestine expo [TNA]

Nadya's sister Christina Hazboun was at the London Palestine Expo with a stall representing the Bethlehem-based design company.

"The idea of this is to take a tradition which is so special to people in Bethlehem, and give it a quirky touch. We're modernising it to promote Palestinian identity and talent," she told The New Arab.

On the table was a display of necklaces, keyrings, earrings and bracelets, all made from olive wood. Some featured quotes from renowned Palestinian writers like Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani.

Others were simpler, with carvings of the word Palestine in Arabic and English, while the famous Handala image carved into a necklace - the exiled boy created by renowned Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali.

"We want to show Palestinian talent. This is a tradition from Bethlehem and the art is Palestine inspired. We work with Palestinian calligraphers and local tradespersons. Everything about this is Palestinian," said Christina.  

"This is also a way for Palestinians and Palestine supporters to take a piece of Palestine with them wherever they go."

She added that her work is a reminder to Palestinians of their identity, whether they are conscious to wearing the wooden jewerly or not.

"Someone is bound to approach you and ask you to explain the Arabic writing, or the artwork. It keeps the discussion on Palestine alive," she said.

It isn't only woodwork Nadya Hazbunova do. They were also selling a range of clothing, all of which Palestine based.

The idea has been well received in Palestine.

"People were shocked at the idea when it first came out," Christina explained.

"This tradition is very old, but no one has ever thought of doing something like this. It's catching on very fast and we're quickly going global."