A few kilometers south of the center of Jericho is the Women’s Association Center in Auja. President of the Center, Lubna Massaid will gladly meet you at the offices of the Sultan Company for Fresh Fruits where she also works. At her offices there Lubna explains with enthusiasm the various projects and products of the Center, among them dried herbs, embroidery, wool products and baskets. She introduces Nada Etiat, basket maker, who has with her a bag of dried banana leaves, the raw materials for basket making in Auja. She will show one of the Center’s products.
Nada is eager to demonstrate the art of basket making using dried banana leaves which the women at the Center learned from a Jordanian woman. So we say goodbye to Lubna and head over to the workroom at the Al-‘Auja Women’s Center which was made possible through JICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency and which was founded in 2008. You can hear children’s voices from the playground of the kindergarten which is also run by the Center.
The first step in the process of basket making, Nada explains, is soaking the dried leaves in a basin of water. But not too long!—just long enough to make the fibers supple again and to bring out the rich variety of brown tones of their natural beauty.
As Nada begins to twist the fibers into a cord, she is joined by Ikhlas Meali, another cooperative member and skilled basket maker. When she saw activity at the Center Ikhlas decided to stop by and help; she is also a busy with raising her children and going to school.
Ikhlas brings another finished basket to show; it is a large flat spiral of twisted cords designed to hold their traditional bread. Ikhlas then wraps the twisted cords with more strips of banana leaf fiber and Nada then begins to coil the wrapped fibers, sewing them together so the stitches do not show in the finished basket.
This work is time consuming, requiring agile and strong hands, and the result is beautiful! Such a basket is representative of the hard work, aesthetics and determined effort by the women of the Auja Cooperative.
If you would like to hear more about their work and products, contact Lubna Massaid, President, at: Telephone 0598027530
Al-‘Auja, Jericho Region
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