From makloubeh to kalayat bandoura, Ayed Arafah from Qastina Designs illustrates beloved Palestinian foods onto a number of tote bags and aprons. With art, recipes, and the storied histories behind the food, these designs are truly works of art. And we recently had a conversation with Ayed to learn more about his inspiration and experiences with making these designs for totes and aprons!
Since 2016, Ayed has been making these recipe designs to honor his mother’s cooking. He was initially interested in handmade designs and in making designs in a digital form, especially those that belong to and express the rich Palestinian culture. During his travels abroad years ago, he found recipe notes from his mother. And though he mentioned that he needed his mother’s recipes to make food that tasted like hers, he realized these recipes could be turned into designs. So the recipes and designs we see on his totes and aprons today have really become a celebration of his mother’s food.
These aprons and totes come in a number of designs that showcase these different recipes. His mother’s exact directions for all kinds of Palestinian favorites, like waraq duwali and mulukhiya, are highlighted in intricate illustrations that show both the beauty of the food and Ayed’s creativity. In his experience, he has been very intentional about selecting only a few of his many designs include on totes and aprons, and he makes a conscious effort to not make designs that repeat themselves. As he continues making these designs, he continues to work on making collections, each having its own subject and statement. His art then is proof of the hard work and creativity put into each and every design and story, making sure that every design is unique in its own way! The diversity in his art makes for exciting totes and aprons that brighten up the kitchen and even outfits with the beauty of Palestinian cuisine!
The project’s name also comes from Ayed’s home village, Qastina. And as a refugee, he uses this project as a way to reconnect him to his home and where his family came from in 1948. Ayed told us that this project allows him to practice making his designs while maintaining an affordable way to make a living, so his work truly continues to have a deep, meaningful impact in his life and others. In fact, during the production of his totes and aprons, the fabric used is handmade in Palestine and called mansouri. His pieces are then sewn in Hebron, and his designs are printed in the Dheisha Refugee Camp area in Bethlehem. And so as Ayed uses the resources and help around Palestine to create these beautiful products, he celebrates the cuisine and recipes of his mother while telling the story of all Palestinians.
Ayed asserted that cooking is one of the main parts of cultural identity. He told us that cooking is an expression of the core of the culture in a community, because through cooking you can learn about the values, nature, tradition, and history of that community. His designs then are able to tell the stories and cultural identity of Palestine through his celebration of his mother’s food. These heirloom recipe designs are truly bringing the stories, traditions, and the personal touch of Palestinian kitchens to people around the world.
Ayed left us with an important thought: “Cooking is not just a recipe. It’s a knowledge accumulation and the legacy of our antecedents. it’s a language by itself. And my project is an act of celebrating this legacy of heritage.”
So celebrate Palestinian heritage and cuisine with Ayed and take home your very own heirloom recipe totes and aprons!