Shirabe Yamada, Executive Director, Sunbula

About Sunbula

Sunbula is a nonprofit fair trade organization established in Jerusalem in 1988, with an aim to empower artisans from marginalized communities in Palestine by promoting the traditional crafts. Sunbula’s work integrates the Palestinian cultural heritage in economic activities and ensures that it is kept alive and stays relevant in today’s society.

• Sunbula’s partners: 25 artisan groups operating in refugee camps, rural villages and Bedouin communities in the West bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and in the ’48 areas.
• Sunbula’s beneficiaries: women, people with disabilities, small-scale farmers
• Products: Palestinian embroidery, olive-wood and mother-of-pearl carving, ceramic, Bedouin weaving, basketry, sheep-wool products, leather, jewelry, recycled paper products, hand-woven and hand-printed textiles, and local food products
• Sunbula’s fair trade shop in Sheikh Jarrah and e-commerce site (www.sunbula.org) generates regular income for the artisans and ensure the economic viability of their work.
• Sunbula provides product development, capacity-building, and emergency funding to the ensure the development and sustainability of the artisan groups.
• Sunbula work to preserve the cultural heritage through research and documentation, and has published the following books:
• ‘Embroidering a Life: Palestinian Women and Embroidery’ (2000)
• ‘Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual’ (2019)
• Sunbula is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and upholds the fair trade principles and practices.

Challenges

The number of artisans has decreased notably in the last decades, reflecting the fast-changing social-economic reality of the day. The younger, more educated generation with wider job options does not choose to enter the craft sector, or opt out for a higher paying job inside Israel. Crafts that are particularly under threat of disappearing are:
• Mother-of-pearl carving
• Bedouin weaving
• Basketry
• Majdalawi weaving
• Embroidery techniques that are not cross-stitch, such as Tahriri from Bethlehem

Recommendations

Proactive efforts are needed in order to protect the craft heritage into the future, in economic, social and official domains.

Economic:
• Promote and support the craft industry to keep it viable and sustainable
• Make artisanal work economically attractive option (i.e.: fair trade wages)
Social:
• Provide the younger generation opportunities for exposure, learning and training of traditional crafts and artisan skills
• Research and documentation of the especially vulnerable crafts
Official:
• Enact an official system to elevate the status of artisans and to ensure the continuation of artisan heritage (i.e.: ‘Living National Treasures’ in the countries like Japan, Korea, the Philippines, which designates and protects artisans as the keeper of intangible cultural properties)