Culture

Iraqi Christian preserves community's traditional handwork

Iraq

Steve Stani, an Iraqi Christian, has learnt the traditional craft of embroidery and tailoring to produce garments that are worn on special events.

Steve Stani, an Iraqi Christian, has turned his home into a workshop where he produces traditional Iraqi Christian clothing.

Steve learnt the ancient trade through family and friends and he can now reproduce the ancient embroidery and tailor products by hand, but with the assistance of a modern sewing machine.

Steve hopes his work can go some way towards strengthening the links between the past, present and future, especially for Iraq’s young Christian population.

“We encourage our youth to continue wearing our traditional costumes in our special occasions to present our identity and save our ancestor’s heritage,” said one of Steve’s employees.

Although the traditional Christian garments are only worn on special occasions, such as religious holidays, weddings and births, there is still a great demand for them amongst Iraq’s Christian population.

In addition to creating new garments, Steve has sought to recover as many original garments from the Nineveh Plains as possible following the elimination of ISIS militants in the region. One piece that was retrieved from an 85 year old lady is likely to be more than 120 years old.

During the onslaught of ISIS in Iraq, who captured vast areas of northern and western Iraq between 2014 and 2016, the militants attempted to destroy the heritage of minority groups, many of whom it deemed to be heretical. Despite the militant group’s original promise to allow minorities to remain in their territory in return for the payment of a protection tax, or jizya, in reality minorities often suffered the worst of ISIS’ brutality and oppression.

Christians, as well as other minorities in Iraq, have had their heritage, and even their existence, threatened by the existence of ISIS in the country. However, the defeat of ISIS militants in almost all of Iraq allows people such as Steve Stani to ensure the survival of the ancient traditional crafts of Iraq’s Christian population.