Travel Portraiture, or Wearing Scarves on your Head (Part 2)

Katia, our fearless leader, was always wearing some kind of scarf on her head.

Scarves on the head are actually quite important in Palestine.  Whether you wear it to cover your hair for religious reasons or reasons of modesty and cultural sensitivity, or to protect your face from the sun, or to express solidarity with the anti-Colonial cause, there’s always some reason or other to drape cloth over your head in the holy land.

Some of us learned to the keffiyeh as a mask. Seen by the western media in footage of rock throwers during the intifadas, the keffiyeh covered face became an icon of Palestinian resistance to occupation and second class treatment.

But the Keffiyeh’s history in Palestine goes back much farther than 1987, 1968, 1964, or even the Nakba. It is a traditional Arab headress that dates back hundreds of years – but importantly it had fallen out of favour by the merchant class under turkish rule. In Turkish controlled and early Mandate Palestine, the middle class would wear the Fez as a symbol of sophistication and wealth.  Lower class villagers, farmers, continued to wear the keffiyeh. But this changed during the Arab revolt of 1936-39, which was led primarily by the rural class. The farmers were more effected by the early stages of zionist colonization – the British would raise tax rates on the land to the point where the foreign landowners could no longer afford to keep it and rent to Palestinian Arabs, so they sold the land to the Zionists who had significant funding from abroad.  When the revolt began, the British could tell between the villagers and the merchants just by their headress – but the townsfolk began to wear the keffiyeh in solidarity with the resistance, making it impossible to tell where someone was from just by their dress. At this point most keffiyeh were not patterned but plain white, and they were not worn as a mask or in the fedayeen style but over the head, held in place with the black rope ringlet. Kind of like Stef in this last photo.

Headsca

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