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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘It’s a privilege to be Palestinian’: MENA Heritage Month keynote speaker discusses integration of culture into fashion

Aminah Musa emphasizes, uplifts Palestinian identity in work
Jenna Innab
MENA Heritage Month Planning Collective with Aminah Musa, 2024 keynote address

The University of Wisconsin Middle Eastern North African Month Planning Collective hosted keynote speaker Aminah Musa, co-founder of the fashion brand Paliroots, Monday evening as part of MENA Heritage Month. 

On the UW campus, MENA Heritage Month is celebrated throughout the month of March. The 2024 theme, “MENA in the Modern World,” acknowledges the “ever-evolving” cultures of the MENA region, according to the Collective’s statement.

Embodying this theme, Musa was invited to have a discussion with MENA Heritage Month Planning Collective Chair Dana Tabaza.


“Paliroots demonstrates how Palestinian heritage is a dynamic force that continues to influence and inspire the present,” Tabaza said. 

Tabaza added that Musa, a Palestinian-American, “literally is ‘MENA in the Modern World.” Musa’s heritage set the ground for Paliroots with her brother and co-founder, Hussein Musa. The siblings recognized a lack of representation in everyday wearable Middle Eastern street fashion.

Musa’s journey as a fashion designer stemmed from the influence of her father, who was a painter. Musa said resistance comes in many forms — for her family, this resistance came through art. 

Taking inspiration from cultural elements and drawing them was easy for her. Arising from her own experiences, Musa wanted to incorporate a casual, streetwear style with storytelling elements from the Palestinian culture. 

Musa went to fashion school in Los Angeles, and found a deep love for clothes and wearing her cultural clothing. Paliroots’ first t-shirt design showcased the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a historically rich mosque in Islam.

Through Musa’s incorporation of local, Palestinian goods and materials, she connects wearable pieces to her meaningful roots, like the olive wood beads crafted in Bethlehem, woven into bracelets.

Preserving the Palestinian heritage is central to Musa’s work. She said she puts her “heart and energy” into every project that preserves Palestinian identity.

“Our mission has always been preserving Palestinian roots,” Musa said.

Not only has she done this through her clothing, but also through charity. Every purchase made on Paliroots contributes to a meal program through the nonprofit organization Middle East Children’s Alliance. Collectively, Paliroots has donated over 2.5 million meals to children in Gaza, feeding over 300 kindergarten children.

Musa has also encouraged Palestinian and non-Palestinian individuals to make the trip to Palestine. One way she spread this message was by filming a video series in 2016 on the Paliroots Youtube channel highlighting an inside look at local Palestinian life, attractions, cultural events and even a tour of her grandmother’s home. 

“Don’t let them scare you from going,” Musa said. 

In her conversation with Tabaza, Musa also spoke about her family and the hardships being part of the Palestinian diaspora can bring. But she said that through storytelling and sharing knowledge, she can keep her culture alive. She said being Palestinian specifically means being part of a culture that values collectivism.

“There’s a lot of hurt people that are hurting, and we need to stop that cycle within our generation,” Musa said. “Because the next generations are going to see the fruits of our labor.”

Musa underscored her address by saying “it’s a privilege to be Palestinian,” adding that “it’s an honor to be born into this beautiful identity.”

She hopes that those who wish to experience Palestine, will be able to.

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