02: in lands akin to yours - SS19

they told us you were ours
yet i saw the light for the first time
in lands akin to yours
close but not yours
they told me when i could open my eyes
that you were full of wonder

Extract from Civil fatigues by Palestinian poet Hind Shoufani

The Beginning
A year ago, when Donald Trump announced his intention to move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, millions of people around the world saw it as a sign that peace was getting even further and further away as a possibility. It also induced a fear of erasure. Jerusalem is a contested space, and aiming to erase that contestation is a way to also erase identity. Whatever your ideology, it is impossible not to recognize the attempts at erasure that the Palestinians have been subject too for decades, from the appropriation of food to that of clothing and music.

Around the same time last year I met Yazan Kopty at an Afikra salon discussion in London. These are salons organized to reignite curiosity in the Arab world and its culture. I found out that Yazan was going through the process of doing archive work through his Imagining the Holy, a research project supported by grants from the National Geographic Society and AFAC. I became entranced by the project’s Instagram account (all images belong to the National Geographic Society), a window into pre-1948 Palestine, which itself has become a contested space. He was building it as a project that would serve as a documentation of the Palestinian Identity, a population that existed and lived in its homeland for centuries. It is a project working against erasure.

The Process
The process of archiving these photos and using them as inspiration made me think of identity and how those who seek to conquer and dominate don’t just use physical and financial power: their strongest tool is the erasure of a group's identity. This is not only done by taking the land they live in, but also by erasing their history, not allowing them to practice their religion freely, not allowing them to produce and eat their food and most importantly by appropriating and/or erasing their culture references.

I started to focus in on particular photos that struck me and began my design process for ‘in lands akin to yours’ there. It is an extension of the work I started with Zero One, reimagining Arab traditions for the modern world.

In this collection, I am working on actively undoing the work of erasure. Each piece emerged from the study of a particular archival photo from pre-1948 Palestine. The choice of fabric was informed by elements that also are rooted in the land. You can head over to my Instagram to see which images in particular I was influenced by.

All fabrics are 100% Italian and Belgian linen and 100% Spanish cotton.

All the fabrics were part of unsold stock at failing factories in Europe and were in danger of being thrown out and ending in landfills. Through a sourcing deal with a Lebanese importer we were able to save them.
As with every collection, construction of every garment is designed to minimize leftover or wasted fabric.
All Nour Hage collections are produced in a small factory in the hills above Beirut where Syrian and Lebanese tailors work ethical hours and are paid fair wages.

The Shoot
Models Zed Josef is a British-Swiss-Lebanese actor & Athier Mousawi is a British-Iraqi artist.
Photographer Nasri Atallah is a British-Lebanese writer & producer
Location The Hackney Wick studio of Lebanese illustrator and calligrapher Joumana Medlej

Thanks to George Rouhana and Sammar Lababedi for additional help