PNA President Mahmoud Abbas, in the middle (Haytham Othman/MaanImages)
Here is the dead, the dessicated, the sucked-of-all life kufiya, as deployed by the dreadful mass assembled at the Fateh general conference, convened in Bethlehem earlier this month. Yasir Arafat was no angel, but at least he was the leader of a liberation movement. As a whole, the movement's leadership was corrupt, but at least it had the noble goal of national liberation. This new, post-Arafat crowd, headed by the atrocious Mahmoud Abbas, are simply Israel's and the US's guards in proxy of the concentration camp, the ghetto that is the Palestine National (sic) Authority. They have turned the kufiya into a kind of symbolic fetish, that all wear draped around their shoulders. As Sousan Hamad reported in Electronic Intifada, "As Abbas waited for his turn to read from what seemed like an inevitable 60-page speech, a man walked around the aisles handing out cheaply-made, Fatah-branded kuffiyehs (the traditional checkered scarf) to delegates and journalists. He insisted everybody wear it for the cameras." Abbas' own kufiya scarf was a bit fancier, with the Palestinian flag sewn into the ends.
Of course Fateh was too cheap to make any effort to support national kufiya production, seeing as how the organization is now all about neo-liberalization and capitalist globalization as the path to liberation. Meanwhile, University of Arkansas International Studies graduate Chris Wylie, and former student of mine, made a trip to Hebron where he bought his own, authentic, national production Palestinian kufiya, from the Hirbawi factory, the last remaining kufiya producer of kufiyas in Palestine. Bravo, Chris. Hmmm, if a young man from Arkansas could get to Hebron to buy a kufiya, why couldn't Abbas & Co. find their way there?
Despite Fateh's efforts to claim ownership of this symbol of resistance, there are lots of signs that its control is resisted. Check out the photos from this PANET article (in Arabic) about a hip-hop benefit for Gaza, held in Haifa, Israel in March--kufiyas are everywhere! Among the artists who performed: Awlad al-Hara (Nazareth), DAM (Lyd), Shadia Mansour (UK), The Patriarchs (US), Bihrang Mar'i (Sweden), and Lucky (UK).
Colombian DJ Rodrigo is also down with the kufiya. Go here to check out his latest release, through Indigenous Radio (IR), and go here to get a podcast of DJ Rodrigo, live mixing for IR. (Thanks to Dave Watts for alerting me to this.)
If you've not had enough of kufiyas, you could also purchase a limited edition Leila Khaled print, by Jesus Barraza, to benefit the Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine, now in progress.
According Muhaafiz Khan, writing in the blog As-Sabiqun, the act of converting to Islam has now become hip among African-American youths in the roughest neighborhoods of Washington, DC. And along with taking the shehadeh, apparently, comes wearing the kufiya. Khan writes:
The trend [of conversion] is still very much alive today, and it seems to have spread all across DC. As strange as it may sound to the suburbanite believer, it has now become en vogue in inner-city DC to be a Muslim; it is "cool" to sport a colorful kufi or Palestinian-style keffiyeh. Young brothers in thobes are becoming an increasingly common sight. Scented oils are in high demand. It is not uncommon to hear the greeting of "As-salamu 'alaikum" while walking down the street (that is, if you are obviously a Muslim).
Khan goes on to say that Islam is not just a "look" and external practice, and he expresses the hope that "with their constant expoure to the message (Jumu'ah khutbahs are hardly missed), some of it is bound to sink in and take root."
And you think kufiyas are no longer cool in New York City? Check out this guy, recently photographed on the New York subway by my friend Dave, a fellow kufiyaspotter, on the #1 train, Uptown, 125th and Broadway stop. The gentleman had fake vampire fangs in his mouth too. Dave calls it Harlem Punk Kufi.
And back in Palestine, here's a hot of a very stylish kufiya tie. I love it! Thanks to Rochelle, who alerted me to it, and to Howaida Arraf (an activist in ISM), who gave me permission to reproduce it here. The tie wearer is her brother, Wadeh.
Now a postscript on The Hurt Locker, which I finally got to see. Earlier I posted a photo of the character played by Ralph Fiennes. As my friend Carolina pointed out to me before I saw the film, he is wearing full-blown kufiya, as is the rest of his crew in the film. The Explosive Ordinance Disposal squad, protagonists of the film, comes upon them in the desert. When they first spot them, they think Fiennes & co. are insurgents, since they are in kufiyas. The disposal squad describe what they are wearing as 'haji' wear. Fiennes and his crew are not regular military, they're hunting most-wanted Iraqis, and have two guys who appear in the set of playing cards the US military developed to identify them. Meanwhile--as Carolina also pointed out--the bomb squad member played by Brian Geraghty also wears a kufiya, but it's quite subtle--a khaki scarf that seems to blend into his uniform. And, given that the scarf is khaki colored and not black-and-white or red-and-white, it's also "hipster."
M-1 of Dead Prez was recently in Gaza, as part of the Viva Palestina delegation. He writes about the experience here. Kufiyas were, as you might expect, worn by many in the delegation. M-1 describes what happened as the group approached the border:
On a comfortable chartered bus I daydreamed and listened to one the head organizers, Nancy, deejay to our anxiety and excitement. One of my favorite songs is the one that demanded us to “wave our kufiyas in the air!” which many of us wore. Even though they have become a passing fashion statement, we wore the red and white ones, and I felt extremely proud when the brothers got together to wave our red, black and green Liberation flag in the immigration office as they chanted loud enough for the people to hear us on the other side in Gaza.
I wish I knew what song that was! Note that red-and-white kufiyas have now become associated with Hamas, in the Palestine context. Here's a photo of M-1 from the post; I don't know who the guy is with him.
Do you remember when the kufiya was in all the fashion shows? In case you forgot: here are some 2008 photos of models dressed in "Fashion Week Style," from the fashion blog Jak & Jil. (Thanks, Rochelle!)
Hanne Gaby Odiele, Chloé fashion show
Is that enough kufiyas for now?