On Jaffa Oranges

You may have seen our Citrus Candle available in a few styles over the last couple of years, but this new line of candles have an extra flare that I’ve been envisioning for some time. Erum Khalili, the illustrator and designer of the label's art, helped bring the idea to life through her own self-described interest in “nature and texture”, visible throughout her work and especially fitting for Olive & Heart, where focus is often placed on individual ingredients. I'm excited to now share this product series in particular for the opportunity to share the story of the Jaffa Orange through imagery that Erum beautifully translated through her creative lens.

Jaffa is a port city as well as the Palestinian village from which Jaffa Oranges famously originated.  Before we even began this collaboration, turquoise, various blues and of course orange was the color scheme fixed into my imagination. 

I have never been to Jaffa, and it’s not even one of the Palestinian villages my family has any connection to – but in the same way the Hollywood sign is embedded in the minds of people regardless of ever stepping foot in California, Jaffa lives in my mind and the memories of Palestinians around the world in part because of the iconic imagery surrounding it. Countless illustrations from as far back as the 19th century (followed later by photographs) convey Palestine’s rich history, agricultural legacy, and later the loss of Jaffa Oranges as a globally recognized Palestinian brand and industry that parallels a cultural and economic decline leading up to the Nakba. (Separate post to come on this historic significance of Jaffa Oranges.)

The scenic seaside villages were often depicted in paintings by European artists who would voyage to Jaffa.  While the port city was idyllic, there was a notable lack of people throughout most of these illustrations, turned into a postcard above, the subtext being "conquerable land". That narrative was challenged by Palestinian photographer, Khalil Raed, who began taking close up photographs of individuals and families working in the orchards and various facets of exporting the oranges.

The Jaffa orange was a new citrus variety developed by Arab farmers in Palestine and its cultivation coincided with the rise of the industrial revolution, leading to the crop's rapid expansion. Orange exports from Palestine grew from 200,000 to 38 million between 1845 and 1870. That's huge! Not to mention a labor intensive endeavor that could only be sustained by farmers with an understanding and knowledge of the land to grow this fruit, coveted for its unique qualities of having few seeds and tough skin that made it ideal for exporting.  Think about that the next time you hear Palestine was just once a barren "land without a people."  In fact, it was bustling with life and an entire economy of its own.

Jaffa oranges became so coveted that there were cases of other countries trying to pass their lesser citrus varieties as Jaffa Oranges by copying their branding.  (Note the poster below, on the far right, just below the words "you can" includes the line "grown in Palestine".) 

I’m deeply grateful for Erum’s patience with me as I described some of this history, went through variations, and the level of attention applied in details like the  stone's color and overall cobbled look.

I hope others enjoy the modern deco interpretation of Jaffa whether in the form of a candle, or the image available here.  One hundred percent of the profits made from the purchase of the digital download will be donated to one of the charities that customers may choose after checkout including The Migrant Kitchen and Word Central Kitchen

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