"While making I Strongly Believe in Our Right to be Frivolous (2012- ), I encountered people who had the need to recount to me their personal stories of loss during war - loss of their beloved ones, or even their own body parts, or during their escape, or even when they reached Europe in search of safety. I encountered these people in Beirut, Athens, Kassel, and Zutphen in the Netherlands. Athens, being placed at the center of the refugee migration where many people are screened before they are able to continue their journey north, is the main inspiration behind this work commissioned by Documenta 14 in Athens.
I studied old Greek embroideries made by Greek women, mostly from the Dodecanese Islands, and spanning over centuries from the Byzantine era, to the Ottomans, and until the 19th century. I was particularly interested in elaborate bed tents (Sperveri), usually made by mothers for their daughter’s dowry to be used as a cover for their nuptial bed. I found the techniques and style of work to closely resemble the needlework seen in Lebanon, Palestine, and other parts of the Levant. Yet most notably, I found many parallels between these embroideries and their symbols, and how they reflect the worries and hopes told in the stories of current displaced or refugee women and their families.
Sperveri later emerged as a conceptual work, where I hand-embroidered in the bed-tent the stories of those displaced whom I had encountered in those four cities. The exterior of the tent has a selection of those old Greek embroideries, which I redrew and I embroidered with the help of skilled housewives. Some of the women are refugees who were recently forced to come live in Lebanon in the camps because of the Syrian war. Others are Palestinian refugees who have been living in camps in Lebanon since the seventies if not earlier. While others are Lebanese Druze women who live in modest and religious rural households trying to earn a living and support their families with embroidery.
However, once you enter the tent, the texts hidden inside, instead of what should be a marital bed. The texts chosen relate to the imagery shown on the traditional tent. The symbol of the ornate peacock, inspired by Byzantine embroidery for immortality and fertility, is reconsidered in the story of Khalit, a Northern Iraq Yazidi whose religious beliefs venerate the peacock. The Greek sailboat traveling across the Aegean takes on a new meaning with the treacherous journey refugees are currently taking across the same waters. The work takes another look at the images and patterns once embroidered in celebration and joy, and now seen in the tragic stories of war."