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Glittering embroidered garments and jewellery from Yemen, 

17 August until 19 December 2015


Detail of embroidered neck opening of Tihama dress, Yemen. TRC collection. Photograph: Joost KolkmanDetail of embroidered neck opening of Tihama dress, Yemen. TRC collection. Photograph: Joost Kolkman

The image of the Queen of Sheba, dressed in exotic garments and jewellery and dancing in front of King Solomon, has fired the imagination of artists for hundreds of years. The Biblical land of Sheba, now known as the Republic of Yemen in the extreme southwest of the Arabian Peninsula, has long been described as the source of abundant trade goods, including emeralds and rubies, purple, embroid-eries, fine linen, coral and incense (Book of Ezekiel 27:16). Dutch traders in the 17th and 18th centuries went to Yemen to acquire silk (stickzijde) and metal threads (goudtraet), silk textiles and much more that came from as far away as Syria, Egypt, Iran, India, China and Indonesia, to bring these goods back to The Netherlands for its wealthy citizens. In the 20th century Yemen was still attracting trade from all over the world. Sadly, in recent days Yemen has become the scene of a bloody civil war and interference from outside.

The local geography of deserts, mountains and long coasts has meant that Yemen developed a diverse range of textiles, clothing and accessories that reflect local cultural and economic characteristics. This diversity is also found in the many textiles and outfits that are displayed in the new TRC exhibition. The items include men and women’s outfits from the four corners of the country, including items from the Haraz, Sana'a, Tihama, Wadi Hadramaut. There are indigo dresses with chain work, dresses and pieces with intricate embroideries of many types, and locally hand woven textiles for men and women, including headgear, waistcoats and hipwraps. Furthermore, the exhibition includes examples of the famous eye faceveils and of the intriguing and colourful red velvet and satin bridal dresses from the Hadramaut. Last but not least, there are modern interpretations of traditional forms. Over 100 items of Yemeni textiles, dress items and accessories are on display.

Yemeni dagger sheath and gold embroidered belt. TRC Collection. Photograph: Joost KolkmanYemeni dagger sheath and gold embroidered belt. TRC Collection. Photograph: Joost KolkmanYemen has also for long been famous for its silver jewellery. Thanks to the generosity of Paul Spijker (Toguna, Amersfoort), a range of silver items worn by Yemeni girls and women will also be on display. They were used to complement the dress outfits and to say "look at me, I am someone, but don’t touch."

The exhibition also focuses on the exquisitely embroidered dagger belts worn by men, which were produced, specially for the TRC, by women of the Al Buraai family in the remote Haraz Mountains, north of the capital, Sana'a.



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2311 HW Leiden.
Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 /
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The TRC is open again from Tuesday, 2nd June, but by appointment only.

Bank account number:
NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59,
Stichting Textile Research Centre

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -27 August 2020: American Quilts

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
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