I visited Rand Dabboor (one of my absolute favorite artists in Palestine to drink tea, scheme and design together!) and to talk about her art and what inspires her.
Morgan: For folks who don't know you, what kind of art or crafts do you do?
Rand: Design, graphic design mostly. To help people come to know me and what I do, I go to bazaars and festivals. I participate with a table so that people ask me about what I do. I talk to them about the designs, about the kind of art I make, how I choose my inspirations (old places, culture and so on) and I can talk about why it's so important to protect our heritage. I go to these bazaars all over, in Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, and keep talking about our culture and the absolute importance of preserving it. Moreover, I use social media to share my work and spread my message, as well as through word of mouth.
Rand's illustration of herself in traditional dress (I just LOVE that she illustrated herself finally!)
Morgan: The thing I love the most is how your designs are all rooted in Palestinian historic experiences and crafts and places.
Rand: The inspiration comes from the places I visit, old houses for example. When I go to an old historic house, I sit and I image. What did the people who lived here do? Did the hajja cook, and what was the food she made? Did the hajj plow his land? If there were children, were they playing? What games? Then I go online and search for old photos. I take photos from online archives and old books. I stop elderly people on the streets and talk with them: Where is your dress from? Did you embroider it yourself? What are the motifs?
With elderly men, I stop them and ask them, why do you wear your hatta in this way? I ask questions about their lives from long ago, and how was life in Palestine when they were children? This is how I learn what it was like...from their collective memories.
I use my time in bazaars asking people about old proverbs, old songs, and such. I always inquire about old foods and recipes and I basically store all of this. I discover from people that what I thought traditional foods were like is not what they remember. I basically spend my time collecting people's memories, and I translate our elders' memories through my art for others to learn and for us all to preserve.
My ideas come also from the old, used thoab (traditional dresses) I find and collect. For example I have an old that has stains on it--traces of the hajja who wore it before me. She made bread in this thob. It was not a traditional dress for a wedding, like how we wear it today. No. She would go to her neighbor when she was in labor or bake her family's bread or go to the market--all wearing her thob.
Rand shows me the thoab she has collected and tells me stories of their lives before her.
At this point, I've collected 12 thoab. And they all have stories. I also have collected...she jumps up...I have to show you this! Look at this old broom I took from a destroyed, old house. It was under a pile of rocks and dirt. Imagine how many times this old woman swept her home and how often she added more pieces to the broom to fix it.
Morgan: Amazing! Tell me about what you're working on right now.
Rand: I'm working on a project called Kheir al Bilad, what Palestine itself gives us, from her land. These images and designs are meant to celebrate how we went to our land and worked it and slept on it in the manateer. It's a celebration of our ancestors labor, planting and harvesting, and a celebration of the bounties of the land.
Morgan: I've seen some of it and they are incredible images! I just wonder, do you ever feel lonely? In your gallery alone and on a computer?
Rand: Never! I am always studying and learning about historical dresses, Palestinian tatreez, historic buildings. And always planning the next discovery. I'm always learning from people and then researching more about what they've told me. If I ever do feel alone, I go out to old homes and photograph these places to get my inspiration and positive energy from our ancestors.
Rand is the first new partner we've added to our Handmade Palestine family in 2023. We don't have much of her work yet (she is truly prolific and must have a thousand designs by now!) but you can see a few of her pieces in our collection here.