Palestinian-Czech designer Nadya Hazboun’s jewellery line aims to educate about the Arab world
The olivewoods of Palestine and the celebrated words and poetry of Edward Said, Mahmoud Darwish and Fadwa Tuqan inspired Nadya Hazboun’s latest venture.
The 33-year-old Palestinian-Czech fashion designer, who is based in Bethlehem, has created a line of jewellery – Olivewood by Nadya Hazboun – that evokes the turbulence and resilience of life under Israeli occupation.
“It is my attempt to remind people of who we are and what our culture is all about,” she says.
It all began five years ago when Hazboun designed a T-shirt featuring an evocative fingerprint.
Hazboun said it immediately resonated with Palestinians and the wider diaspora, because they immediately understood what the relatively benign image was really all about.
“It mirrors our reality, when passing checkpoints, putting our fingerprints and being reduced to just fingerprints,” she says.
Hazboun used the open borders of the internet to launch her brand in 2013.
She slowly began to make a name for herself locally through social media posts.
Its popularity encouraged her to launch her womenswear brand in Prague and debut her work at Amman Fashion in Jordan in 2012.
With Olivewood by Nadya Hazboun, she takes her international perspective and marries it to a jewellery collection deeply rooted to her homeland.
Her nearly two dozen designs, including bracelets, pendants, rings and bangles, are all made of Palestinian-sourced olivewood, and infused with Arabic calligraphic lettering. Prices of the online store range from €15 (Dh58) for a pendant to €30 for a bangle. Some of the deeply evocative works include a necklace gently engraved with a quote by Darwish: “In accordance to your dreams the universe expands”. There is also a beautiful pendant shaped in the form of a key, with the gently devastating declaration “bayti” (my home).
Hoop earrings are also available with a carved design that reads “hurriya” (freedom).
More than style or advocacy, Hazboun says the items serve an educational purpose.
Arab youths today are no different from those in the West, she adds, and globalisation and western pop culture have caused many of them to abandon or forget the Arabic language.
“My intention was for these fashionable pieces to prompt people to start asking questions,” she says.
“I want them to enquire about the messages, to search for their meaning, to look for further explanations.”
Ironically, perhaps, Hazboun’s brand and ideas were more readily accepted and welcomed abroad than at home in Palestine at first. It took a while for locals to really grasp the idea behind the designs.
It was the diaspora who first started being great ambassadors for her work, and the United States remains her biggest market.
It was only in 2014 that Hazboun started to see the same enthusiasm in Bethlehem. However, she is far from disappointed by the slow response.
“It was tricky to work with – Arabs for a long time looked for western creations and considered them ‘hip’, ‘cool’ and beautiful – whereas Arabic was frowned upon as ‘uncool’,” she says.
“Today this has changed and most people are happy to be celebrating their identity by showing it off through clothing.
“At the end, what you wear is a reflection of your personality, style and identity”.
Hazboun also hopes her new work could re-instil a sense of pride in being from the Arab world, particularly at a time where the word “Arab” or “Arabic” often have negative connotations internationally due to terrorism and political turmoil. “I want to cross and surpass long-planted false ideologies about Arabs, their language and heritage,” she says.
“Education and raising awareness are the strongest weapon anyone can have.
“My designs are messengers – spreading a message, promoting a poem, a quote, an idea – and it is left to whoever sees or hears it to look further for its meaning and benefit from it.”
Due to the constantly changing political and security situation in Palestine, Hazboun is still considering how her next project might reflect the Palestinian story.
Whatever it might be, she hopes her work will be viewed as a significant step forward for her homeland in the global fashion industry.
“Perhaps this would be a first step to making a relevant stamp on the [fashion] world map as a whole,” she says, hopefully.
Updated: January 11, 2017 04:00 AM