In an old house decorated with colorful straw dishes and trays in the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan in the Salfit district in the West Bank, the elderly Palestinian woman Ayesha Saleh, Um Nidal, is making straw plates, a profession she has mastered and learned from her mother nearly 50 years ago.
Every day, Um Nidal’s relatives gather at her old house, which dates back dozens of years ago. They remember the tales of their ancestors and that of their village, as she knits straws, to produce colorful paintings, the main component of which is straw, producing materials used for decoration.
Um Nidal’s straw making is a Palestinian heritage that should be preserved. It also provides income and allowances for some families to cope with the hardships of life in a village that favors this kind of work for women.
Um Nidal told the PIC reporter, “The basic material used to make sweepers is wheat straw, following its harvest, because it is strong, flexible and widely available during the harvest season. We collect these items and tie them in packages, especially in winter, which is characterized by the long hours of leisure due to the lack of agricultural work.”
She added that “most of the village’s women learned the profession from their grandmothers and mothers because of the availability of raw materials, in addition to being a source of livelihood for some families,” asserting that all houses in the village have many types of dishes kept by families in their homes. She affirmed that food tastes differently when it is served on straw dishes.
About to go extinct
She highlighted that the straw making craft is in decline in terms of manufacturing and use, and is expected to disappear in the coming years with the lack of demand on this type of sweepers, with the development and manufacture of modern and easy-to-use sweepers; many straw-making workshops were shut down by their owners.
Um Nidal pointed out that there are many tools which are made of straw, including trays used for decoration and cover purposes, baskets, art objects and many others.
Um Nidal has a hundred children and grandchildren, which she feels proud of raising them by working in the straw-making industry