This piece of rectangular satin cloth was gifted to Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, by Khawla Khalid wife of Anwar Diab from Iraq – a family friend of Dr Reem. Khawla’s father was well-known among different ethnicities and religious sects of Baghdad, who tended to often gift him unique items.
Khawla Khalid-Diab was born in Baghdad in 1939. The oldest daughter of a senior judge and his socialite wife. She came of age during Iraq’s cultural and political heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. She began her career as a pharmacist in Iraq. In 1980, Khawla immigrated to the United States and settled in Boston, Massachusetts where she continued working in the pharmaceutical field.
She and her husband of over 50 years raised three children and seven grandchildren. Khawla is active in the Boston area’s Arab community with a passion for literature, cuisine, and fine arts.
This rectangular peach silk cloth of (satin) weave was possibly part of a broadcloth or a utilitarian decorative fabric like a panel, table, or bed cover. The piece is primarily embellished with (satin_stitch) embroidery done by hand in silk floss threads in a variety of colours. The patterns are floral in nature and are mostly concentrated in the centre of the fabric.
While the foliage is depicted in a range of different pale green and grey shades, the flowers on the other hand range from shades of brown to pink like mahogany and fuchsia to red like burgundy and (crimson) as well as bright blue.
Culturally and geographically animal symbolism in the form of butterflies and dragonflies are also incorporated as design elements. They are depicted in lavender, grey, and blue with contrasting highlights like crimson and shades of brown. The hem of the piece is finely machine embroidered.
With just a handful of countries earning mentions in the “Object range” section due to technical limitations, one must never forget the vast range of influence the Chinese culture has had across the globe, especially in South and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. As such it would not be presumptuous to categorise all the countries of these regions under this section where such a fabric likely to be easily available.
In fact, the impact of the Silk Route from China all the way across to the Middle East could perhaps very well be surmised through one word “satin”. A fabric that was exported from the port of Zayton in China and was acquired by the Arab traders was named after the city that it came from and was later morphed into “satin” by the Europeans.
Similarly, the cultural exchanges through trade relations between China and South Asia had always been quite strong so much so that religious philosophies like that of Buddhism that was essentially born in India became one of the major faiths in China since the antiquities.
- Cammann, Schuyler. “The Development of the Mandarin Square.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, 1944, pp. 71–130. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/2717953. Accessed 8 May 2023.