Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim Recognized as National Heritage Month Fellow


PORTLAND—Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim is a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Month Fellow. She is a master Palestinian embroiderer, and has been recognized for her dedication to Palestinian arts and culture through numerous awards. She has lived in Milwaukie, Oregon for the past 29 years.

Most recently, Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim was awarded as a 2018 NEA National Heritage Fellow. This fellowship recognizes artists for their mastery in their field. This is Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim first NEA National Heritage Fellowship.

Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim was born in Safad, Palestine, and learned the art of embroidery from her mother and grandmother. She learned that Palestinian embroidery has been used by Palestinian women to share their unspoken stories for thousands of years. It serves to record their rich history and events.

At an early age, Mrs. Abassi-Ghnaim knew of the value of arts, and began to share her knowledge of embroidery with others. After she and her family fled to Syria in 1948 (after the 1947-48 Palestinian War), she started to teach arts and crafts to young students at the Irbid Refugee Camp through United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). Even at the start of her career, she was commended for her hard work and leadership in developing this curriculum at schools.

Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim’s work has been showcased across the world. In 1973, her design was picked to be the UNESCO logo. After moving to the United States with her husband and three children, in 1980, she co-managed “Stories in Fabric” at the Oral History Center in Cambridge. Her work encourages other women to share their stories and struggles through the arts.

In 1985, Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim shared her “Dove of Peace” tapestry at the International Women’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. There, she gave a speech on the struggles of preserving her culture and history as an American Immigrant. Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim moved to Oregon with her family in 1989, where she went on to receive numerous awards, such as the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program state-level prestige award. Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim received this honorable award three times in 2012, 2014 and 2017.

Recently, Mrs. Abbasi-Ghnaim has focused on sharing her experience and gift with youth in Oregon. She has worked with the World Affairs Council, Middle East Studies Center, World Beats Festival, among others. She was a keynote speaker for Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights in 2010. She has shared her exhibits in the World Animal Festival at the Oregon Zoo, as well as at the Arab Festival at the Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon.

She will travel to Washington, D.C., in September Friday, September 15, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. ET for public events to honor the 2018 National Heritage Fellows. The Friday, September 15, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. ET event will be livestreamed. A link to the livestream will be released soon.

Want to read more about amazing Oregonians? Check out our “Amazing Oregonians” section. 

About Author

Carrie Kikel is the Communications Manager for Oregon’s Arts Department, which includes the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust. The Oregon Arts Commission provides statewide grant funding to artists, arts organizations and arts programs. The Cultural Trust raises public and private awareness and investment in arts, heritage, history, humanities and preservation.

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