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On Jaffa Oranges

The only candle in our line inspired by a city: Jaffa.  In particular the art work on our Signature Jaffa Candle pays homage to the city's history, including a scenic coastline that was part of a significant trade route. Designer and illustrator Erum Khalili's interest in nature and texture made it possible to bring a little piece of the history of Jaffa oranges to offer up our citrus scented candle.

Jaffa is a port city and Palestinian village from which its namesake oranges famously originated.  Though I have yet to visit Jaffa and even though my own family's East Jerusalem roots are well outside the seaside village, Jaffa lives in my mind and in the memories of Palestinians around the world in the same way the Hollywood sign is embedded in the minds of people regardless of ever having stepped foot in California. Visually, it is impossible to conjure its iconic imagery without thinking of blues and turquoises and the adobe stone style homes of the centuries old city. 

Countless illustrations that date back to the 19th century (eventually followed by photographs) convey Palestine’s rich 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

European artists who voyaged to Jaffa often depicted the seascapes in an idyllic manner that notably lacked people or any indication of a thriving population.  The subtext, as in the postcard above, being that Palestine was an"empty" and "conquerable land", a narrative challenged when hand drawings replaced  photography. Khalil Raed, the first Arab photographer to begin capturing Palestinian life on glass plates took close-up photographs of individuals and families working in the orchards and various stages of the export side of production.

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. (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.  This single export coupled with Raed's photography not only debunked fictional suggestions of a "land without a people", it connected the world to a bustling life and provided insight into a thriving economy. 

Jaffa oranges became so desired 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, the variations she went through and the level of attention applied to seemingly insignificant details like ensuring the stones reflect the cobbled stone quality that permeates the real city. 

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