Who Was Karimeh Abbud? Part 1

By Mary Pelletier

A quick Google search reveals an oft-repeated, neat little biography for Karimeh Abbud, complete with an image of her, stood next to a large-format camera, shutter release in hand.  Karimeh was allegedly the first female photographer in Palestine, born in 1896 to an esteemed, intellectual family who resided in Bethlehem. She also went by the title ‘Lady Photographer’, and proudly stamped the moniker on her prints. Seeing this calling card, I was hooked – how had Karimeh managed to make her mark in the old boys’ club of Holy Land photography practice?

Karimeh Abbud and her camera, Haifa, 1920s. Photo by C. Swaid (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

Karimeh Abbud and her camera, Haifa, 1920s. Photo by C. Swaid (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

The biographical information about Karimeh online was surprisingly one-dimensional. She had worked throughout Palestine, making her studio in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, specialising in photographs of women and families. Articles stated her importance with certainty, but I was curious as to the source of this information – did it come from her family? Who had declared her the ‘first’ Palestinian female photographer, or as some claimed, the first female to run a photographic business in the Middle East? What had happened to her photographs, and why weren’t they in a museum collection somewhere?

Karimeh Abbud studio stamp (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

Karimeh Abbud studio stamp (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

With funding from the PEF, I got right down to asking anyone in Bethlehem and Jerusalem with photography knowledge who would listen – where can I find Karimeh Abbud and her photographs? Articles from the Jerusalem Quarterly and online sources cited the Nazareth Archive Project and Ahmad Mrowat as being the source of the research. The Nazareth Archive Project was said to house Karimeh’s work, but phone numbers to Mrowat were disconnected, as were phone numbers I tracked down for family members who were said to have helped compile this initial information, circa 2007.

Photograph of two unknown women taken by Karimeh Abbud (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.23)

Photograph of two unknown women taken by Karimeh Abbud (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.23)

Karimeh’s name seemed to be one that everyone knew – but no one knew much about. One Palestinian photography collector let out a long sigh when I asked him what he knew of Karimeh’s work, citing that her reputation had been overblown – her studio photographs were nothing special, photographically speaking.  I disagreed – I had been attracted to Abbud’s photographs because those I had seen online seemed much more intimate than the stage-y, directed portraiture of Jerusalem photographers like Khalil Ra’ad.

Looking at photographs from Issam Nassar’s collection, reproduced here, the subjects of her photographs seem to exude a comfort, both with their partners and with the photographer herself – as though the taking of the picture is not a transaction, but instead a sort of collaborative effort. (Nassar has written further on Abbud in the larger context of Middle Eastern portraiture in the Jerusalem Quarterly, cited below).

That skeptical collector also put me in touch with Rev. Mitri Raheb, head of Bethlehem’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, and, as it turned out, Karimeh’s unintentional biographer.

This photograph printed on carte postale has the stamp of Karimeh Abbud. It was sent with a note on the back to Um Diabis Abbud on October 30th, 1930 from Dmitri, whose last name is not legible. (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.28)

This photograph printed on carte postale has the stamp of Karimeh Abbud. It was sent with a note on the back to Um Diabis Abbud on October 30th, 1930 from Dmitri, whose last name is not legible. (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.28)

Meeting with Rev. Raheb helped to set some things straight about Karimeh’s biography – his book, a limited-print run paperback written in Arabic and with a foreword by Ahmad Mrowat, charts her life through Lutheran church records. He sets a clear picture of her life’s trajectory, her family life, the chances afforded her by her family’s status, even her marriage – many things left out of any online articles. All of the context afforded by Rev. Raheb’s publication is important, especially when considering the style of Karimeh’s subjects and her mobility.

Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 45)

Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 95)

:Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 44)

Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 94)

The images in the book had come from two Abbud family photographic albums. These two undated images, taken by Abbud herself, are reproduced on pages 94 & 95 of Raheb’s publication and demonstrate Abbud’s signature portraiture environment – the women here are comfortable with each other, but also with Abbud’s presence. It is obvious in both images that their proximity to one another demonstrate a close relationship – most likely mother and daughters, and then the two sisters, alone – but we also see that Abbud treated her familial subjects in the same way she treated her paying clients, and vice versa – there is a warm professionalism that plays out in each of these different sets of images.

It is the foreword by Mrowat in this text that seemed curious to me, however. Where earlier articles by Mrowat stated he had acquired ‘some 400’ Abbud photographs from an Israeli photography collector, this text (published 2011) noted a legal case brought against him by the same Israeli collector. He states that the collector had no right to keep the photos, as he was not related to her in any way. This calls into question the amount of weight placed on earlier claims for the archive in his articles – who actually owned the pictures that were being written about, did the author have permission from the owner(s) to use them, and were the claims accurate? Does the Nazareth Archive Project exist outside of articles bearing its name?

There are many outstanding questions I am in the process of answering – beginning with gaining access to the ‘some 400’ photographs that were the subject of this legal case. A ‘Part 2’ will be forthcoming!

Further reading:

Mrowat, A. 2007. “Karimeh Abbud: Early Woman Photographer (1896-1955).” Jerusalem Quarterly 31: 72-78.

Nassar, I. 2011. “Early Photography in Palestine: The Legacy of Karimeh Abbud.” Jerusalem Quarterly 46: 23-31.

Raheb, M. 2011. Karimeh Abbud: Pioneer Female Phographer of Palestine. Bethlehem, Palestine: Diyar Consortium. Print. Arabic language.

The PEF is Camera Ready for Raising Horizons

By Amara Thornton, Leonora Saunders, Felicity Cobbing and Becky Wragg Sykes

Last month the four women behind Trowelblazers, a digital platform for crowd-sourced biographies of pioneering women in archaeology, geology and palaeonology, in collaboration with photographer Leonora Saunders launched a new project, Raising Horizons.  Supported by Prospect, Raising Horizons will feature a photographic exhibition, oral histories and associated events celebrating the long history of women working in these subjects.

Fourteen women actively working in archaeology, geology and paleontology today have been paired with a historical counterpart. Leonora and Trowelblazers have been working together to resurrect these historical women, creating new portraits as their modern ‘pairs’ represent them in costume. Their goal is to highlight the diversity of the fields today, and provide role models for younger generations while referencing and paying homage to the women who came before them.

One of the historic figures included is Kathleen Kenyon who as Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem led excavations at Jericho in the 1950s and Jerusalem in the 1960s. Kenyon is being portrayed by the archaeologist Shahina Farid, who as Field Director  conducted excavations at the site of Çatalhöyük, Turkey between the 1990s and 2012.  Both have been instrumental in training the next generation of archaeologists.

Final touches complete Shahina's Kathleen Kenyon 'look'. Courtesy of Leonora Saunders/Raising Horizons.

Final touches complete Shahina’s Kathleen Kenyon ‘look’. Courtesy of Raising Horizons.

Setting up the shot - getting ready to shoot Shahina as Kathleen. Courtesy of Leonora Saunders/Raising Horizons.

Setting up the shot – getting ready to shoot Shahina as Kathleen. Courtesy of Raising Horizons.

Close up shot of the PEF camera. Courtesy of

Close up shot of the PEF camera. Courtesy of Raising Horizons.

For the Farid/Kenyon portrait, the PEF loaned its Sands Hunter & Co camera with Zeiss lens which once belonged to the archaeologist John Garstang.  Garstang used it on site at Jericho in the 1930s, so the camera has historic significance for the portrait. His wife Marie Louise Bergès Garstang, who excavated alongside him after their marriage in 1907, is also represented in the archive. Their daughter Meroe Garstang – named after one of the most important sites her parents excavated – also joined them on site at Jericho.

Marie Garstang excavating at Jericho, 1931. (PEF-P-GAR-JER-J.31)

Marie Garstang excavating at Jericho, 1931. (Garstang archive, Palestine Exploration Fund)

Another fantastic photograph in the Liverpool University Garstang Museum shows Marie Garstang excavating with her husband at Meroe in Sudan where they worked in the years immediately before the First World War. His and hers pith helmets, placed side by side at the edge of the trench, echo their working relationship captured in the image.

A number of institutions are supporting the Raising Horizons project, but Trowelblazers is actively crowdfunding to enable the project to go on tour and support associated events in these locations.  A full list of institutional supporters can be found on Trowelblazers website – but you can help support the project at their Indiegogo page.  A range of bespoke rewards have been sourced to accompany donations.

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Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Brenna Hassett, Suzanne Pilaar Birch and Tori Herridge founded Trowelblazers in 2013. Find out more about them at Trowelblazers.com. Read more about Raising Horizons in the Guardian.

Watch the Raising Horizons Fundraiser video.

Discover the connections between Shahina Farid and Kathleen Kenyon.

Learn more about Leonora’s work at her website: http://www.leonorasaunders.co.uk/

In the footsteps of “Sitt Halima”

By Rosanna Sirignano

(Continued from “Introducing ‘Sitt Halima‘”)

Those who have women as informants are in a specially favourable position; the women are very much interested in their conditions and linger with pleasure over things which men glide over lightly.” (Granqvist 1931: 22)

Having obtained PEF support to go to Artas, I travelled there this October. After spending a couple of days in Jerusalem I left for Bethlehem together with my husband. Fadi Sanad, president of the Artas Folklore Center, welcomed us at Bab al-Zqaq from where we took a shared taxi to the village. He had arranged everything for us: the first two weeks we stayed in an apartment provided by Abu Sway family. Thanks to their hospitality and open mindedness we soon felt part of the community. The night we arrived women from Sanad family encouraged me to wear a traditional Palestinian dress and to attend a henna party.

En route to the henna party. Photo: R. Sirignano.

En route to the henna party. Photo: R. Sirignano.

Women dance with a basket full of sweets during a wedding. Photo: R. Sirignano.

Women dance with a basket full of sweets during a wedding. Photo: R. Sirignano.

A few days later Fadi´s younger brother got married. I had the privilege of getting involved in wedding preparation from the women’s side, while my husband enjoyed the atmosphere from the men side. When my husband left, I moved to Fadi Sanad´s mother´s place. She lived with three unmarried and beautiful daughters. Here my field work really began.

My research assistants were children from Abu Sway and Sanad family. They helped me to learn the local dialect and find my research participants, and they assisted me in doing the interviews.

I interviewed eleven women from 50 to 97 years old belonging to some of the families described in Granqvist´s work.

One of my research participants in her courtyard. Photo: R. Sirignano

One of my research participants in her courtyard. Photo: R. Sirignano

An old Artas women during the olives harvest. Photo: R. Sirignano

An old Artas women during the olives harvest. Photo: R. Sirignano.

I explained frankly the purpose of my research to all my participants at the beginning of the interview process. They had a similar attitude toward wailing songs (in Arabic tanāwiḥ) and they didn’t feel comfortable speaking about it because they considered it sinful (ḥarām) and shameful (cēb). It seems that the Prophet Muhammad recommended to not express grief with loud wailing, beating one´s chest or cheeks, tearing off the clothes etc.

While my participants had never sung or wailed during a funeral, they have seen this practice at least once. Because of contrasting information they gave it was difficult to establish how common the practice had been and when exactly it disappeared. Some women preferred referring to wailing as a very old and uncommon practice in Artas. Some others admitted that it was a common practice which disappeared only ten years ago.

I was a little bit discouraged, but I could not give up. I had to think up a way to complete my wailing songs mission. I thought: Why don’t I ask “Sitt Halima” and their patient collaborators for help?

Granqvist's house in Artas. Photo: R. Sirignano

Granqvist´s house in Artas. Photo: R. Sirignano

I began to show the women Granqvist´s collection of wailing songs in Arabic. Most of them were very happy to see that someone had recorded part of their cultural heritage so carefully. Although they recognized only one song, transcribed below, they quoted other songs that I have still to analyse.

ḥabībti w ana ḥabībtha

ištāk kalbi la zyāritha

yiṣcab calēyya yōm furkitha

 

She is my beloved and I am her beloved

My heart has pined for her visits

My heart suffered when I had to depart from her

(Granqvist 1965:199)

L. Baldensperger handwritten notes in Granqvist´s archive at the PEF. Photo: R. Sirignano.

L. Baldensperger handwritten notes in Granqvist´s archive at the PEF. Photo: R. Sirignano.

Haddad's notes with Granqvist's interlinear transcription (PEF archive). Photo: R. Sirignano.

Haddad’s notes with Granqvist’s interlinear transcription (PEF archive). Photo: R. Sirignano.

References/Further reading

Gamliel, Tova 2014. Aesthetics of Sorrow: The Wailing Culture of Yemenite Jewish Women. Wayne State University Press.

Granqvist, Hilma 1931. Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village, vol.I, Helsinki, Societas scientiarum fennica, commentationes humanarum litterarum.

Granqvist, Hilma 1965. Muslim Death and Burial: Arab Customs and Traditions Studied in a Village in Jordan, Helsinki, Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum.

Wickett, Elizabeth. 2010. For the Living and the Dead: The Funerary Laments of Upper Egypt, Ancient and Modern. I.B.Tauris.

 

Introducing “Sitt Halima”

By Rosanna Sirignano

“I needed to live among the people, hear them talk about themselves in Artas, make records while they spoke of their life, customs and ways of looking at things. For that reason I decided to remain in Palestine.” (Granqvist 1931: 2)

Hilma Granqvist (nicknamed ‘Sitt Halima’ in Palestine) was born in 1890 in Sipoo, in the UUsimaa region in the eastern neighbour of Helsinki. Her family were Swedish-speaking Finns, a minority ethnic group in Finland.

Picture 2

Hilma Granqvist during the harvest (PEF archive).

Picture 3

Between 1925 and 1931, she carried out a field research in the West Bank village of Artas. “Sitt Halima” soon became part of the community. Thanks to her work, Artas is the most well documented village in Palestine before 1948. Her five ethnographical monographs about marriage, childhood and burial customs, have a unique place in Palestinian studies because of the detailed descriptions of women´s lives under the British Mandate.

I am currently carrying out a PhD research at Heidelberg University on Hilma Granqvist´s Arabic field notes in Arabic. When I first discovered her biography during my BA dissertation, I was immediately fascinated. Her courage, perseverance, patience and stubbornness in the face of difficulties, marked her as a painstaking researcher, determined to achieve her goals.

The Palestine Exploration Fund now holds the material resulting from her field work, including more than a thousand papers containing the original Arabic version of the texts. In 2011 I visited the PEF and with the help of Felicity Cobbing and Ivona Lloyd-Jones I photographed all of Granqvist’s Arabic field notes. My MA research focused on the transcription and translation of texts about childhood.

Granqvist´s field notes in Arabic at the PEF.

Granqvist´s field notes in Arabic at the PEF.

Funded by the PEF, I have recently been investigating what are known as ‘wailing songs’ – performed by women lamenting and bewailing the deceased. These songs are a long-standing tradition in Israel\Palestine. We can find traces even in the Old Testament, for example, in Jeremiah 9:17-20 God calls mourning women to raise a lament over the besieged people of Judah (Granqvist 1965: 194). The practice of wailing can also be found in other part of the world.

Women in mourning (PEF archive).

Women in mourning (PEF archive).

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Women sing and distribute food (PEF archive).

For the PEF project I focused on songs performed at women´s death. These were dedicated to a stranger woman, a good wife, a good mother, a neighbour and friends (Granqvist 1965:199-201). Their contents recall some aspects of the deceased’s life, or express feelings of loss and sadness. In some cases women give a voice to the deceased, for example:

“The beloved ones passed me by

They have crossed the border of the country

They have gone far away from me” (Granqvist 1965: 201)

Picture 7

Arabic original version of the song, PEF archive. Photo: R. Sirignano.

The file n.22 from Granqvist´s PEF archive contains different original Arabic version of the songs. Three people helped Granqvist in taking notes: Louise Baldensperger, Elias Haddad and Judy Farah Docmac. Each of them used a different system to reproduce the variety of Arabic spoken by Artas villagers. Sometimes it is very hard to interpret the text, and this is my main research problem: how could I reconstruct the musicality and rhythm of the songs to show their artistic value?

To be continued…

Picture 8

Artas landscape today. Photo: R. Sirignano.

References / Further reading

Claasens, L. Juliana M. 2010. Calling the Keeners: The Image of the Wailing Woman As Symbol of Survival in a Traumatized World. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 26 (1): 63–77.

Granqvist, Hilma 1931. Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village, vol.I, Helsinki, Societas scientiarum fennica, commentationes humanarum litterarum.

Granqvist, Hilma 1935. Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village, vol.II, Helsinki, Societas scientiarum fennica, commentationes humanarum litterarum.

Granqvist, Hilma 1947. Birth and Childhood Among The Arabs. Studies in a Muhammadan village in Palestine, Helsingfors, Sӧderstrӧm & Co. Fӧrlagsaktiebolag.

Granqvist, Hilma 1950. Child Problems among the Arabs, Copenhagen, Munksgaard.

Granqvist, Hilma 1965. Muslim Death and Burial: Arab Customs and Traditions Studied in a Village in Jordan, Helsinki, Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum.

Naïli, Falestin 2007. L’oeuvre de Hilma Granqvist: L’Orient imaginaire confronté à la réalité d’un village palestinien, Revue d’Etudes Palestiniennes, 105, 74-84.

Seger, Karen (ed.) 1981. Portrait of a Palestinian village, the photographs of Hilma Granqvist, London, The Third World Centre for Research and Publishing.

Weir, Shelagh 1975. Hilma Granqvist and Her Contribution to Palestine Studies, Bulletin of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies 2/ 1, 6-13.

Women of the PEF: Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts

By Adam John Fraser, PEF Librarian

Did you know the PEF got its start from a woman, the Victorian philanthropist and banking heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts? I was recently reading Charles Watson’s The Life of Major-General Sir Charles William Wilson (1909). Wilson was an officer in the Royal Engineers and was one of the most important early members of the PEF. He was responsible for conducting the first scientific survey of Jerusalem in 1864. In Wilson’s biography I came across this interesting statement:

The survey of Jerusalem originated in Miss Burdett Coutts’ wish to provide the city with a better water supply. She was told it was first necessary to make an accurate survey of the city, and for that purpose she placed £500 in the hands of a Committee, of whom the late Dean Stanley was one. He applied to the Secretary of State for War (p. 41)

This brief reference to Burdett-Coutts got me thinking about the women and history of the PEF. Having recently reviewed Kathleen Sheppard’s biography of the Egyptologist Margaret Murray, I’d become more aware of the fascinating history of women in archaeology. Here, I will shine some light on women in the history of the PEF, in particular Angela Burdett-Coutts.

coutts

An illustration of Angela Burdett-Coutts, after a portrait by J. R. Swinton in the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Coutts is an international private banking group; its long history spans over 300 years. In 1837, 24 year old Angela Burdett inherited the interest in a Trust and a half share in the Coutts Bank. As the heir to the banking family she became the public face of the Bank. This would have made her one of the wealthiest women in England (if not, the wealthiest).

Angela was actively involved in the affairs of the bank and also donated large portions of her private wealth. She was engaged in a great deal of philanthropic work; housing the destitute, caring for neglected children, extending women’s industrial opportunities, the exploration of Africa, protecting dumb animals, caring for those wounded in combat and scientific and technical education. Among her wide social circle was the novelist and keen social observer Charles Dickens. Together they set up Urania Cottage, a house for helping women who had fallen to prostitution.

The Water Relief project of Jerusalem in 1864 was an extension of Angela’s philanthropic work. The pre-existing water systems in Jerusalem consisted of cisterns which were contaminated by rainwater running through the streets.

The British public were horrified at the reality of the most holy city in Christianity being plagued with disease. Angela Burdett-Coutts established the Water Relief Committee to find a means to solve the problem. It was suggested that a survey of Jerusalem be undertaken in order to provide the city with a better water supply. In charge of the survey were the soldiers of the Royal Engineers, deemed to be the best in the Empire for this work.

Detail from Wilson's Survey of Jerusalem 1864-1865 showing the Old City and surrounds. Existing water cisterns are coloured blue. (PEF-M-OSJ 1864-5 PLAN 1- )

Detail from Wilson’s Survey of Jerusalem 1864-1865 showing the Old City and surrounds. Existing water cisterns are coloured blue. (PEF-M-OSJ 1864-5 PLAN 1).

Out of this Water Relief Fund that the PEF was born. The survey was a great success and the popularity that it garnered was enough to establish the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1865. Without her it is unlikely that the PEF would have emerged as it did (or even at all!)

Angela Burdett-Coutts had a remarkable life; this blog entry is nowhere near enough to discuss all the things she accomplished. But as we are celebrating our 150th anniversary this year, it is fitting to celebrate the women of the PEF as well as the men!

Further Reading

Healey, E. 2012. Coutts, Angela Georgina Burdett- suo jure Baroness Burdett-Coutts. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [Online]. Oxford University Press.

Sheppard, K. L. 2013. The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman’s Work in Archaeology. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books.