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Treasures of Palestine

Start Date 17 October 2003
End Date 26 January 2004
Venue Powerhouse Museum
Location Sydney, Australia

Treasures of Palestine showcased a wide selection of traditional material ranging from costumes, embroidery, jewellery and ceramics to mother-of-pearl inlay work, posters, photography and olive wood sculptures. Through these objects, visitors to the exhibition were able to appreciate the richness and depth of Palestine’s cultural heritage.

These artistic and documentary materials covered significant historical periods: to 1948, and through to the present. They represented the integrity of a living tradition and of cultural and spiritual continuity within Palestine and throughout the Palestinian diaspora.

The beautiful mother-of-pearl collection of contemporary work demonstrated both the Christian and Islamic religious traditions of the Palestinian people. Objects such as the mother-of-pearl nativity scene and a model of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, made in Bethlehem, are evocative of age-old traditions. Other Christian objects include olive wood rosary beads and carvings of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Last Supper.

A banknote and a selection of coins are of particular importance and are symbolic in their representation as social history documents. For example, the banknote was produced in Britain in 1939, features an image of the Dome of the Rock and is printed in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

Embroidery, seen in Palestine as being important in keeping cultural traditions alive, was also featured in the exhibition. The collection illustrates how patterns and colours have changed since 1948 to include iconic images such as olives, wheat and even the word Palestine.

Treasures of Palestine invited visitors to engage with the Palestinian people themselves and their strong sense of identity as reflected in their material culture. Moreover, the exhibition encouraged visitors to see beyond the present conflict to the people of Palestine.