Why song performed by Palestinian Arab Idol struck a chord with millions of viewers – English translation of lyrics included

In the song that qualified him for the Arab Idol competition, Palestinian singer Muhammad Assaf  from Gaza city sang ‘ya tair altayer’ flying bird.  This national song struck a chord with Palestinians and Arabs everywhere and the original video clip from the Arab Idol competition has gone viral with over a million viewers.  A new clip has just been posted on youtube with images of the Palestinian cities Assaf sang for (see new video below).  Assaf told reporters that he sees no line between his art and being patriotic.  He is right.  His song expresses a Palestinian wish for freedom and for the ability to see loved ones in other villages that are now no longer accessible.  It is a reminder that even though Palestinians are confined within their bantustans and behind Israel’s big walls and towers, they haven’t given up on the dream that one day they too will fly like a bird and see their homes,  villages and loved ones.

Oh flying bird

Going to my home

My eyes follow you

And God’s eyes protect you

Oh you traveller

I am so jealous

Palestine my homeland

She is beautiful praise be to God

Go by Safed

Go by Tabariyyah

Pass by Acre and Haifa

And say hello to the sea

Don’t forget Nazareth

This Arab fortress

And give Bisan the good news

Her people will return

My people on this land

Stood tall

History is proud of us

And history’s back was bent

From all the pain we suffered

But we are patient

Go to Gaza

And Kiss its soil

Her people are dignified

Her men are mighty

And go to Jerusalem

The capital

Al Aqsa its landmark

Inshallah God willing

We will gather there

Oh flying bird

Going to my home

My eyes follow you

And God’s eyes protect you

Oh you traveller

I am so jealous

Palestine my homeland

She is beautiful

Praise be to God

Palestine on Screen—Why You Must See “Inch’Allah”

By SCOTT MCCONNELL • April 15, 2013, 12:24 PM

The American Conservative 

Inch’Allah,” Anais Barbeau-Lavalette’s feature about Israel-Palestine, may be the strongest effort yet to convey the emotions of the supercharged struggle over land and dignity in the present period. For nearly a half-century, those who wanted justice in Palestine hoped that some representation of their narrative could reach the screen. They lived in the shadow, of course, of the epochal power of  “Exodus,” probably the most effective propaganda film in world history.  A great many years ago I recall Andrew Sarris telling a Columbia film class that the Palestinians were enthused when Jean-Luc Godard got funding to make a movie about their struggle, but were disappointed by the results.  What they had in mind was something like a modern western, with the fedayeen in the role of heroic good guys, a project which was never really in the French auteur’s wheelhouse.

Numerous films have sought to convey  something of the moral ambiguity of the struggle, including Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.” I haven’t seen Julian Schnabel’s “Miral,” based on the novel/memoir by Rula Jabreal, the story of an orphanage for Palestinian  girls whose parents were killed at Deir Yassin.  Many had high hopes for the film, perhaps because of the widely acknowledged talent, warmth, and celebrity of Schnabel, but for one reason or another the movie never really took off.

“Inch’Allah” can’t boast the star power of Jean-Luc Godard or Julian Schnabel; its director, Barbeau-Lavalette, is young and highly regarded in the Quebec film world, but not any sort of household name. But her movie deserves the hopes and access to screens granted to “Miral,” and more. It is a tough, gritty, and intense portrayal of Palestinian life under the occupation and the moral dilemmas faced by those—like the Canadian doctor played by the gorgeous Evelyne Brochu—who get involved trying to help them. The Palestinians, three generations ago a rural and pacific people, have been ghettoized and hardened. More than any movie I’ve seen, “Inch’Allah” conveys the something of the feel of Palestinian life, sarcastic and bitter in the younger generations, old-fashioned in the older ones, trying cope under a system of domination and control far more sophisticated than anything South Africans could dream up.  Read more 

Al-Akhbar: Visualizing Palestine Design Against Injustice

Written by: Yazan al-Saadi

Published Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Al-Akbar English 

 

A quote at the bottom right corner of the graphic reads: “We are not in search of death, we are looking for real life.” The words are from the 1989 declaration of the Tiananmen Square hunger strike.

This was Visualizing Palestine’s first infographic and it was quite a compelling start.

More than a year later, other stunning infographics were produced. These elegant images range from a simple demonstration
of childhood births at Israeli checkpoints to a more complex image detailing the inequality of water distribution in the West Bank.

“Visuals are important because of their speed, its adaptiveness to social media, and the fact that the mind captures more from visuals than from texts,” Joumana al-Jabri, one of the co-founders, remarked to Al-Akhbar during a lunch on a Sunday afternoon that gathered most of the VP team at her apartment on Bliss Street.

The use of images and graphs to emphasize the daily injustices experienced by Palestinians by the Israeli colonial occupation is not entirely unique, but what makes the works produced by VP groundbreaking is the group’s ability to streamline and bond documented facts with eye-popping visuals.

The bread and butter of the project’s work are rooted in its embrace of a multi-disciplinary approach. In this way, diverse strands are tied together, further strengthening the emotional and intellectual impact of each graphic.

The staff of VP are very much aware of the power they hold.

In the Beginning…

The idea of VP was conceived by Ramzi Jaber in the early months of 2011. Like most good tales, it began with a journey and personal questions.“The story I tend to tell is this: I was part of TEDxRamallah, and for a year and a half I was going from village to village, asking myself why as Palestinians are we in this mess and who is doing something about it,” he said.

On his trips, he’d hear shocking statistics, like the fact that each year, 700 Palestinian children are incarcerated in Israeli jails. To Jaber, the injustices committed in Palestine are “the most documented injustices on earth.”

“I was shocked on two levels – shocked by the whole colonial aspect and the sheer injustice, and shocked by my own ignorance,” he said.

At the same time, Jaber was in awe of the growing popularity of TED, prompting him to think about how to take Palestine’s statistics and “present it through the power of storytelling.”

In April of that year, Jaber attempted to establish such a project using volunteers. According to him, he spent months organizing two workshops that brought in researchers and designers, but zero graphics were produced. According to him, the problem they faced was two-fold: the amount of expertise required was difficult to find since this was a new endeavor and it required a stable, committed team rather than volunteers.

Soon after, Joumana al-Jabri, a designer and architect mainly based in Dubai, and Ahmad Barclay, an architect by training, were brought into the fold. Immediately, they began looking for others.

Naji El Mir, a designer based in Paris, and Hani Asfour, founder of PolyPod, a multi-disciplinary designing company located in Lebanon, became key partners at VP, as well as the main designers behind many of the graphics.

“Infographic is like an iceberg, you see one-tenths of it and there is so much below that of work being done. We needed researchers, people who sit down and do huge amounts of research and we still need more,” Jaber said.

Today, VP is a small core team of eight individuals, most in their twenties and thirties, and each providing their own unique skill set. Recently, Saeed Abu-Jaber, a young designer from Jordan was hired. In terms of research, text, and copy-editing, Zaid Amr, in Palestine, and Chris Fiorello, in Beirut, were added.

“Most of the people are from a mixed background so this adds a nice flavor to the design. We aren’t brought together by nationality or driven by jingoistic tendencies, and we are not an activist project that simply wants to save ‘the poor helpless victims,’” Barclay stressed.

Infographic 101

How does VP create an infographic?Mainly, if an urgent news story breaks out, the team decides to develop an infographic in order to give context to what is happening. “Often, or almost always, the news is misrepresented or isn’t given context by the media. The rule of thumb tends to be that if the news is more prominent, it is more likely to lose its context,” Jaber said.

The final element, which is not the main focus of VP presently, is to highlight the absurdities of daily injustices. As an example, Jaber spoke of how Israel prohibits Palestinians holding different color-coded IDs from marriage, a restriction he had personally experienced and was keen on highlighting sometime in the future.

Once a topic is selected and fleshed out through various brainstorming sessions, the researchers gather the data and verify sources. From there, it is passed on to Barclay who molds it into a story.

The hardest part, according to Barclay, is the ability for one close to the data to take a step back and try to look at the bigger picture. He pointed out that there may be topics that simply can’t be visualized easily, topics and data that are segregated by borders, complicated stories that are hard to simplify on a static, two-dimensional image.

“It’s a good and bad exercise, in the sense that how do you get to the core message that strikes people and is rooted in analysis and facts? How do you tell the story to engage and motivate people, without becoming jingoist? How do you get people to understand an idea better or that the continuation [of injustice] isn’t inevitable?” he emphasized.

Abu-Jaber, the newest hire, said, “The beautiful thing is choosing. Finding that point of the story that grabs you. I like the process. It is quite fantastic because you’re learning something new while you’re designing. Essentially, you need to educate yourself.” For Abu-Jaber the work with VP offered a much more meaningful experience than his previous experiences working in fashion and magazine design.

“The work I used to do before made me feel dead inside. But this has a point and I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. This is like design activism,” he chuckled.

After this stage, a brief is made and shared with the designers, who proceed to translate the words into an alluring visual. The visual product is reviewed in order to ensure that the story is still intact.

“The facts are always the red-line. We actually go beyond, and try to maneuver the story to put the context in because you can take the facts out of context. So we maneuver it to include context, and puts the fact right where it needs to be,” Jaber said.

Once all parties are satisfied, it is published online.The final step is to track the graphic’s impact, seeing who shares it and what type of debates it generates. This entire process can take anywhere between three days and three months.

The structure behind the process came out of a lot of trial and error, or as Jaber joked, “more error than trial.” But a structure was shaped, and in the spirit of the project, it was presented as an infographic available online for others to see and use.

Yet even now, the production isn’t entirely without kinks. “We need more effort, more people,” Jaber stated, “People who are dedicated, committed, and have the required skills. It’s harder than getting money.”

Funding, the bane for every organization on the planet, is particularly an issue, especially for a team that is independent from political backing. The VP team are planning to tap into crowd-funding campaigns through sites like Kickstarter, rather than the traditional grant route. This way, they hope, will continue to ensure the project’s ideological independence.

Visualizing International

Since its first graphic, VP has steadily been building a strong following, particularly within the NGO, civil society, and international solidarity sectors. For Jaber, it’s a sign that VP is on the right track.

“Success to me is that our visuals are being used effectively. I’ve heard that people have used them in conferences and in schools. They use our visuals to deliver a message, and the more that effectively happens, the better,” he said.

As another sign of success, the graphics by VP have been translated into more than seven languages, such as Arabic, French, Spanish, Korean, and Finnish. They have penetrated parts of the mainstream media, popping up in Al Jazeera English, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere. And there is still more to come.

“Our next plan is to move into other media. We are very keen to go into animation, dynamic infographics, or even crowd-designed graphics,” Jabri stated.

But it is the ambitious concept of Linked word Visualizing Justice that has the most potential. The idea builds from the successes of VP and first conceived during an American tour by Jaber.

“We were being contacted by lots of people around the world who wanted to use the same form of visual styles for their causes and communities. They saw that communications is what rallies and mobilizes people together. So we wanted to provide tools and platforms for people to do the same thing in other cause. That’s our plan, but right now we are barely surviving as it is,” Jaber explained.

“Visualizing Justice became our platform that allowed us to transfer knowledge and become an umbrella for other groups to visualize topics other than Palestine – such as Visualizing Syria, Visualizing Burma, and Visualizing Water,” Jabri said.

Jaber reflected on the end-game for VP. He pointed to how the end of Apartheid was brought about by the achievement of a “world-wife understanding.”

“When people understand, it translates into action. Positive change is happening, whatever it is,” Jaber said with a wide smile.

The Japanese technological-fashion designer Issey Miyake once wrote, “Design is not for philosophy, it’s for life.” Can design really change realities and lives? In the case of Visualizing Palestine’s designs, it seems to ring true.

This article first appeared here

The Economist: A theatre of protest “The Island” opened to packed audiences in Palestine’s Jenin refugee camp

ADAPTED from South Africa’s Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed under apartheid, to an Israeli prison cell, Athol Fugard’s play “The Island” has opened to packed audiences in the Jenin refugee camp on the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Confined to a concrete floor set in a sea of sand, two cellmates keep up their morale by rehearsing a production of Sophocles’s Antigone, in which a woman chooses to die rather than obey the king’s decree not to bury her brother, a political dissident. “You won’t sleep peacefully,” Antigone tells the king when he condemns her to death.

Despite its transposed setting, the play retains its poignancy. Almost every Palestinian on the West Bank has a brother, father or husband whom the Israeli authorities have, at one time or another, locked away. At present, 4,500 are behind bars. Jenin may have the highest rate of any town. Imprisonment has become a male rite of passage, as well as a place of higher education: many opt for distance learning at Israeli universities.

Ahmad Rokh, one of the actors in “The Island”, who has served four prison terms, was first put inside at the age of 14. The refugee camp in Jenin was a prime source of suicide-bombers during the second intifada (uprising) that lasted from 2000 to around 2005. Nearly a decade on, it has recovered a sense of humour. The audience laughs at the prisoners dressed in drag.

The theatre has had to overcome a troubled phase. Two years ago its founder, Juliano Khemis, a half-Palestinian, half-Jewish actor, was killed in circumstances that neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian authorities have explained. The Freedom Theatre has reopened its drama school after a hiatus of more than a year.

Though the number of Palestinian political prisoners has halved since the height of the second (and most recent) intifada, it is still twice as high as it was a dozen years ago. Those behind bars include hundreds of stone-throwers, 15 members of the Palestinian parliament and 170 people held without trial under “administrative detention”. The Palestinian Authority also runs its own prisons, where scores of leading members of Hamas, the Islamist group that rejects Israel’s existence, have been locked up.

When an Israeli production of the same play was performed at the Hasimta Theatre in Jaffa three years ago, the director, Alon Tiran, observed members of the audience leaving “in a different mindset from when they arrived”. He could not ask for more than that, he said. In Jenin, reactions have been more pronounced. “We are all Antigone,” says Ahmad Jbarah, better known by his nom-de-guerre, Abu Sukar, who attended the play’s opening. “The more the oppressor condemns us as criminals, the more heroic we are,” he says. Mr Sukar was in prison for 27 years for his part in a bombing in Jerusalem in 1975 that caused 15 civilian deaths.

This article appeared here

Art As Resistance: Centre for Palestine Studies to host representatives from Jenin Freedom Theatre at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute April 14

Centre for Palestine Studies

Please join us for a panel discussion with videos and presentations by representatives from the Jenin Freedom Theatre in Palestine. The panelists will discuss the following:

  • What is it like to make theater in Occupied Palestine and why is this work important?
  • What is the relationship between theatre and politics in Palestine as practiced at The Freedom Theatre?
  • How does the theatre continue its work under severe repression, murder and arrests?
  • What are the similarities/differences in acting education between the U.S. and Palestine?

Panelists

Faisal Abu Alheja is 23-yr-old Palestinian actor trained at The Freedom Theatre in Jenin. He has performed in Animal Farm, Fragments of Palestine, Men in the Sun, Sho Kaman and is currently in rehearsal for The Island. Faisal was a member of the Playback Theatre troupe in 2012 and has toured in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Ahmad Al-Rokh is a 24-yr-old Palestinian actor trained at The Freedom Theatre in Jenin. He has performed in Animal Farm, Men in the Sun, Journey, Sho Kaman and is also currently in rehearsal for The Island. Ahmad was a member of the Playback Theatre troupe in 2012 and has toured in Luxembourg, France, and Belgium.

Gary English is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Professor of Theatre, of the University of Connecticut. He is also the Founding Artistic Director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre, as well as the current Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin.

This event is co-presented by the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre (www.thefreedomtheatre.org) and the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University and co-sponsored by the Network of Arab American Professionals – NY (NAAP-NY), ArteEast, and Alwan for the Arts.

This event is free and open to the public and on a first-come, first-seated basis. RSVP recommended to palestine@columbia.edu.

APRIL 14, 2013, 5PM
Room 501 Schermerhorn
Columbia University
Enter Gates on 116th Street & Amsterdam or Broadway
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/441878539223779/

For more information go to the Centre for Palestine Studies

Palestinian Singer Oday Khatib Awaits Israeli Military Trial

This article appeared April 4 on the World Music Network

Palestinian Singer Oday Khatib Awaits Israeli Military Trial

Oday Khatib, the young Palestinian singer of Arabic classical music and protégé of Riverboat Records artist Ramzi Aburedwan, has been charged with stone-throwing, facing up to ten years in prison if he is convicted. Testimonials from around the world have been written in protest at the charge, from teachers and associates who know him, with many expressing a profound skepticism at the credibility of the charge.

Oday’s father, Jihad Khatib, claims that his son was arrested while waiting for a friend he was meeting for dinner, a victim of the indiscriminate nature of occupying forces in the West Bank. Talking to Musa Abuhashhash, a field worker for the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, Jihad noted that nearby some youths were throwing stones, ‘and when the soldiers chased the kids, it did not come to his mind that the soldiers would go for him. Otherwise he would have run away.’

Born and raised in the Al Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, Oday had never been arrested before and had always been known for his singular dedication to music, gaining a reputation for his interpretations of Palestinian protest songs from an early age. ‘Oday is not interested in throwing stones or getting involved in this. Since he was nine years old he was interested only in music’, his father said.

As a teenager Oday became celebrated as the star singer of Aburedwan’s Ramallah-based Association Al Kamandjâti, an orchestra set up to provide access to music for Palestinian children under occupation in the West Bank. He has since toured internationally with a number of ensembles, including Al Kamandjâti, as well as participating in music education and outreach projects in Europe.

OdayKhatib

Julia Katarina, the British Mezzo-Soprano who put her opera career on hold to teach voice lessons at Al Kamandjâti for three years, was among many musicians from around to voice her support for Oday: ‘He is very generous with his art, and just loves singing beyond all else! He is a true singer, and I imagine the only way he is surviving prison is by singing. I hope he sings in the military court,’ Julia writes, because if Oday’s accusers can find ‘an ounce of humanity in their hearts, they will release him.’

Such a prospect appears unlikely, however; according to the author and blogger Sandy Tolan, in 2010 the conviction rate in military trials for such alleged offenses was about 399 out of 400, a figure accompanied by a growing clamour among settler communities in the West Bank to have stone-throwing treated as akin to live fire by the IDF.

Support Association Al Kamandjâti: http://www.alkamandjati.com/en/home/

Follow Sandy Tolan’s blog: http://ramallahcafe.com/

This article appeared on  World Music Network

(Video) Global Street Art: MOCAtv Series Focuses On Palestinian Graffiti

Global Street Art, the newest MOCAtv series to hit YouTube, turns to the world of Palestinian graffiti in its latest episode. Featuring the work of artists Hafez Omar, Areej Mawasi, Majd Abdel Hamid and Hamza Abu Ayash, the five-minute clip explores the use of street art as a means of communication in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, and beyond.

The street artists take turns explaining their own struggles with freedom of expression and how the expanding medium has helped them to establish their political beliefs and showcase their artistic talents in the public realm.

“In the first Intifada it was more about conveying political messages than being aesthetically pleasing,” says artist Hafez Omar. “Today, however, there is more aesthetic quality to the murals.”

Watch the video above and let us know what you think of the shift in the Palestinian street art movement in the comments. Want more? Check out last week’s episode on Libya’s graffiti scene here.

This article appeared at the Huff Post Arts & Culture  

 

The PLO’s dangerous land swaps rhetoric

The “land swaps” rhetoric is designed to protect the large Israeli settlement blocks and their buffer zones.

By Samah Sabawi

Published on AlJazeera 

Hailed as one of the best spokespersons for Palestine, veteran diplomat Afif Safieh impressed many during his four-city tour in Canada, earlier this year.

Safieh – the author of The Peace Process: From Breakthrough to Breakdown – is also the Palestinian Authority’s roving ambassador for special missions.

But while the messenger was admirable, the message was disturbing.

Safieh’s high degree of eloquence and refined diplomatic skills were not enough to conceal the current pathetic state of political stagnation and bankrupt strategic thinking that inflict the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA).

Safieh stressed his personal view that international intervention is needed for any peace agreement to be reached with Israel and repeatedly referenced international law as the basis for the demands the Palestinians are making. But his message was greatly compromised by the limitations of his official status as representative of the PLO.

In response to threats made by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird that the PA would face great “consequences” if it decided to make a case against Israel at the International Criminal Court, Safieh assured the Canadian government and the public that the Palestinian leadership has no “immediate plans” to pursue Israel at the ICC.

Ending ‘settlement’ 

This is disappointing to say the least, given that high level PLO/PA officials also assured the Palestinian people that once they secured member state status at the United Nations – which they did in November 2012 as an observer state – they would be able tohold Israel to account for war crimes that have so far gone completely unpunished.

So what is the plan for moving forward?

If Safieh’s interviews with Canadian media are anything to go by, the plan is apparently to save the peace process, even though it has led nowhere for 20 years.

He insisted that the fate of the peace process depends “on ending Israel’s settlement building”. This phrase has been repeated in PLO/PA official statements during the past several years with emphasis on “ending” settlement building or “freezing” the settlements, and no mention of dismantling the settlements and returning Palestinian land to its rightful owners.

To understand the implications of this language we only need to listen carefully to a key sentence Safieh repeated in various interviews while in Canada:

“There would be some territorial land swaps containing Jewish settlement blocs with Israel in exchange for an equal amount of land from the Israeli side.”

But this idea of land swaps began during a different era, before Israel colonised large amounts of land in the West Bank. In fact, it was first brought up in 1990 in Italy at a meeting jointly arranged by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Harry S Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace and an alliance of Arab academics and intellectuals.

 

Land swaps were brought up again at the Camp David Summit in 2000 and have continued to be part of the discourse. The problem is that while negotiations went on over the past two decades, settlements grew and today the settlements and their system of roads and infrastructure consume more than 40 percent of the West Bank. So how exactly do we envision land swaps today?

Safieh told the Canadian public and media that Palestinians would exchange their territorial land for equal amount of land from the Israeli side. But according to documents from the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit leaked to Al Jazeera, the last land-swap proposal made by Israel in 2008 gave the Palestinians smaller, less significant patches of land that are of lesser agricultural quality. Moreover, this exchange excluded Jerusalem.

Safieh’s media catch phrase that the Palestinian leadership is being “unreasonably reasonable” is not accurate. The correct phrase should be that the Palestinian leadership is being unreasonably suicidal.

The “land swaps” rhetoric is designed to protect the large Israeli settlement blocks and of course their buffer zones, settler-only roads and infrastructure – all built on prime agricultural Palestinian land, from being included in any Palestinian state.

Land-swaps

As PLO representatives parrot the parlance of “land swaps”, they need to remember that these settlements they are protecting are responsible not only for destroying Palestinian livelihood, but also for theft of Palestinian resources most important of which is water.

Today, the PLO/PA has been boxed into an Israeli-American framework. Not only are they unable to realise that Israel has created the irreversible reality of a single state on the ground, they are not even capable of imagining a situation where they would change the mantra of direct negotiations with Israel to a call for international arbitration or a referral to the International Court of Justice.

Worse, as is evident from Safieh’s Canada tour, missing from the PLO/PA public discourse today is any serious advocacy for the rights of the millions of Palestinian refugees or the inequality suffered by Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel.

It is as if we are somehow meant to believe that an end to occupation that may lead to a deformed state on tiny patches of undesirable agricultural land, where less than a third of the total Palestinian population lives, is all that is needed to bring about peace.

Finally, this talk of “land swaps” evokes memories of decades of colonial oppression and total disregard for the indigenous people’s rights, the people whose lives are affected with every line drawn on some sterile map by well-suited men.

For the PLO/PA to lend legitimacy to Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land by accepting the principle of land swaps and for them to adopt the same language as their occupiers is unforgiveable. Who then speaks in a language that represents Palestinian aspirations, advocates for their rights in the refugee camps, inside Israel and in the diaspora and challenges the injustices suffered?

Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer and Policy Adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network.   

Follow her on Twitter: @gazaheart

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source Al Jazeera

The Independent: A plea from Palestine’s first female director Judge me by my films not my gender

TUESDAY 02 APRIL 2013

One recent trend in world cinema that has become hard to ignore is the rapid emergence of Arab women film-makers. Directors such as Saudi Arabian Haifaa Al-Mansour, Palestine-American Cherien Dabis and Lebanese Nadine Labaki have been feted at festivals all round the world. Acknowledging this new wave, the Birds Eye View Film Festival is this year celebrating female Arab film-makers.

Not that all the directors involved relish their work being judged in terms of their gender or Arabic background. Annemarie Jacir is often called Palestine’s “first woman feature film director” but the label is clearly beginning to grate a little. Jacir (whose new feature, When I Saw You, opens the festival next week) would prefer to be acknowledged as a film-maker in her own right rather than as a standard bearer for Arab womanhood.

“I don’t think women make different kinds of films to men,” Jacir states. “You just want to be a film-maker. Yes, I am Palestinian, yes, I am a woman – but I am so many other things too… it does box you in at times.”

Read more…

About Tales of a City by the Sea

The play Tales of a City by the Sea is a unique and poetic journey into the lives of ordinary people in the besieged Gaza strip prior to, during and after its bombardment during the winter of 2008.  Jomana, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Shati (beach) refugee camp in Gaza falls in love with Rami, an American born Palestinian doctor and activist who arrives on the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with many challenges forcing Rami to make incredible decisions the least of which is to take a dangerous journey through the underground tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt.  Although on the surface this love story appears to explore the relationship between diaspora Palestinians and Palestinians under occupation, there is a broader and more universal theme that emerges – one of human survival and tenacity.  Tales of a City by the Sea avoids political pitfalls, ideological agendas and clichés by focusing on the human story of the people in Gaza. Although the play’s characters are fictional, the script is based on real life events and is a product of a collection of real stories the author Samah Sabawi and her family have experienced during the events of the past several years. Sabawi has written most of the poetry in the play during the three-week bombardment of Gaza in 2008/2009.

The writer Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Canadian-Australian published writer, commentator and playwright.  She has travelled the world and lived in its far corners, yet always felt as though she was still trapped in her place of birth Gaza.  The war torn besieged and isolated strip has  shaped her understanding of her identity and her humanity.  So what else could Sabawi do but to indulge in Gaza’s overwhelming presence and to succumb to tell the stories of her loved ones back home.  Her most recent play Tales of a City by the Sea is dedicated to them and to all of those who still manage to have faith and hope even as the sky rains death and destruction.

The script is available to interested theatre makers upon request.  Please email play3wishes@gmail.com for more information.

Ms. Sabawi speaking at the Launch of the The People's Charter To Create a Nonviolent World

Photo courtesy http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com/launch-events/

Follow Samah Sabawi on Twitter @gazaheart

Samah Sabawi’s professional bio can be found here

For more information on Samah Sabawi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samah_Sabawi

Classical music moves into the camps of Palestine

Published March 23rd, 2013 – 07:00 GMT on AlBawaba
How often does one see pictures of brave Palestinian children facing up to Israeli soldiers and tanks, armed only with stones in their hands and often paying with their lives for daring to do so?

Ramzi Aburedwan was one such child, who grew up in the refugee camp of Al Amari near Ramallah. At the tender age of 8, he witnessed his best friend being killed during an Israeli military operation. He then found himself throwing stones during the first Intifada and as a street combatant Aburedwan seemed destined for an Israeli prison or a Palestinian martyr’s poster. But fate decided to intervene.

At 17, he was invited to a music workshop in Al Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, where he fell in love with the art and started to learn to play the viola. Replacing stones with a musical instrument led to a journey of channelling his anger into creativity and of personal transformation.

After studying for a year at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) in Ramallah and thereafter attending a summer workshop in the United States — at the Apple Hill Centre for Chamber Music of New Hampshire — he enrolled at the Conservatoire National de Region d’Angers.

In 2000 Ramzi created the ensemble “Dal’Ouna”, music that symbolised the link between East and West. It flowed from an encounter between Palestine and France, from the melting of pure traditional Middle Eastern songs with mixed jazzy compositions, played on Western classical musical instruments (viola, violin, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano), and traditional Eastern instruments (bouzouk, oud, darbouka, bendir, etc).

In 2005, he was awarded the “DEM” gold medal for viola, chamber music and music theory. While in France, he also learnt to play the piano.

Yearning to share his knowledge and experience, and inspire a new generation of Palestinians, by helping their anger and frustrations find musical expression, Aburedwan established Al Kamandjâti (The Violin) in October 2002. It was to be the place where Palestinian children and youth could learn music and develop their culture.

In August 2005, Riwaq, the Palestinian architectural organisation engaged in conservation and rehabilitation, completed the renovation of the Al Kamandjâti Music Centre in the old city of Ramallah and it was here that Aburedwan launched his nonprofit musical enterprise, funded mainly by European donors.

Taking music to the people, Al Kamandjâti set up music schools for Palestinian children in various cities, villages and refugee camps. These music schools offer children the opportunity to learn to play music, to discover their cultural heritage as well as other musical cultures, but above all to explore their creative potential.

In addition, Al Kamandjâti produces numerous concerts and several music festivals throughout the year as part of its mission to bring music to all Palestinians.

Aburedwan explains the rationale: “Perhaps the least recognised effect of the violent Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinian people is the undermining of culture, art and leisure. When a regime wants to weaken a people, it uses psychological, cultural and physical means. It attempts to erase tangible evidence of that people’s unique cultural heritage. Our struggle must be cultural and militant, artistic and political, and economic. But on no account should we forget the primary reason behind the projects and activities led by Al Kamandjâti, which is to educate children, who suffer most from the unjust politico-economic situation.

“We cannot afford to sit back and wait for favourable political decisions which would establish a Palestinian State,” he says. “We must proactively work on galvanising Palestinian cultural life. We must give our children the opportunity to think beyond soldiers and tanks. They must think creatively, not about the destruction of their country, but about rebuilding their way of life and future.”

In the West Bank, Al Kamandjâti today provides music training to around 500 students in places such as the Al Amari, Jalazon, Qalandiah and Qaddura refugee camps, the village of Deir Ghassana, the old cities of Ramallah and Jenin, and in Tulkarem.

Since 2005, Al Kamandjâti, with ten French musicians, has also organised annual music workshops in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon, where, today, they have 60 students at Bourj el Barajneh and Shatilla.

In Palestine, Al Kamandjâti employs 22 musicians who teach violin, viola, cello, guitar, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, piano, accordion, oud, nay, Arabic percussion, orchestra, singing, harmony, choir, improvisation and music theory.

“Music is a universal language,” Aburedwan says. “We encourage Palestinians to use this artistic tool to harmonise and enrich their cultural life, promoting international awareness and recognition of the Palestinian nation.

“Through music, Al Kamandjâti seeks to show that education and culture can transcend and overcome the Israeli violence from which Palestinians suffer,” he adds. “Learning music provides children with a form of expression to channel their energy creatively and constructively. Are not today’s children tomorrow’s adults? Classical music is, for the children, a discovery. We introduce each one to an instrument. Moreover, these workshops enable children to gather in a disciplined setting, whether as neighbours or friends or new acquaintances”.

Many young international musicians have been working at Al Kamandjâti, discovering music and a practical approach to mastering various instruments with Palestinian children. Jason Crompton came from New Jersey four years ago to visit his sister in occupied Jerusalem and after learning about Al Kamandjâti, he stayed on to teach piano and conduct the orchestra. He learnt Arabic to communicate with the children and eventually married a fellow teacher from Italy, Madeleine, who teaches the flute and also works with UNRWA schools in the refugee camps around Ramallah. They have a child and now live in Ramallah.

“The feeling of sharing in the musical experience with anyone who wishes to indulge is special and we believe that we belong here,” Crompton says.

Their story lends credence to the oft-held belief that music transcends both borders and barriers. At Al Kamandjâti, it has been an enriching experience for both the Palestinian children and the teachers of many nationalities.

Not only does Al Kamandjâti teach Palestinian children how to play music, it also teaches some of them how to repair, maintain and tune instruments.

Shehadeh, a young man who has been involved in setting up a local lute-making workshop, spent three months in Italy with stringed-instrument makers who had previously been to Palestine, learning to repair and make instruments. Today his workshop adjoins the Al Kamandjâti building in Ramallah.

Al Kamandjâti organises The Music Days Festival in June, in partnership with the French Cultural Centres Network. The festival lasts 12 days and takes place in more than ten Palestinian cities. A Baroque Music Festival follows in December and various churches in the cities of the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem host it.

Al Kamandjâti also engages in exchange programmes abroad with partner organisations. Some students have been given the opportunity to take part in music workshops abroad to improve their technical skills. Khalil, the coordinator, explains, “We had nine students who completed their scholarships in France last year — in violin, percussion, bass, clarinet and guitar, and two of them learnt how to fix string-section instruments.

“We have two blind brothers, Mohammad and Jihad, who today teach percussion and oud at the Helen Keller Centre in [occupied] Jerusalem,” he adds.

Today, Al Kamandjâti stands for Aburedwan’s transformation from a stone-pelter to a viola player and his dream of sharing his knowledge and experience with his people, bringing joy to the children growing up in refugee camps and under occupation.

This article appeared on http://www.albawaba.com/entertainment/palestine-camps-music-479027

Drama School in the West Bank Theatre of Hope

Students at the West Bank’s first and only drama school talk about their struggle to establish a theatre in the West Bank and their desire to change society for the better through theatre. Ulrike Schleicher spoke to three of them

When Palestinian Malak Abu Gharbia was 12 years old, she met the famous Syrian actor and comedian Doraid Lahham after a theatre performance. “He asked whether I wanted to become an actress one day too,” says Malak, who is now 20 years old. “I wasn’t able to say a single word.” Since the encounter, film and theatre have been part of her life. She soaked up everything that had anything to do with them, read plays and went to see performances whenever possible.

For the past half year, Malak has been able to live out her passion: she is studying acting at the theatre academy in Ramallah in the West Bank. Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was one of her first roles.

Malak, who was born in Jerusalem, learns various acting techniques such as improvisation as well as singing, fencing and pantomime five days a week. She also trains her voice and rehearses. Although the academy is the first and only acting school in the West Bank, her training is no different to what she would receive in Europe.

The academy was founded in 2009 with the help of the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. The teachers there advise the staff at the Ramallah academy and are helping them to build what will in future be a state-approved college. Exchanges and guest performances are part of the cooperation.

So far, the lion’s share of funding has come from Germany, but the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah would also like to contribute in the future. Speaking at the opening of the academy in 2009, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that the academy is helping to maintain the history, heritage and culture of Palestine.

Read more…

 

2013 London Palestine Film Festival

Welcome to the 2013 London Palestine Film Festival

This year’s programme comprises 24 events at the Barbican Cinema and University of London, involving 38 titles, 24 guest speakers, and the UK’s first international conference on Palestine and the Moving Image.

Opening with a gala screening of David Koff’s trailblazing 1981 documentary, Occupied Palestine, the 2013 programme boasts historic depth with rarities including a thematic session marking the 25th anniversary of the first intifada, and an outing for Elia Suleiman’s debut, Homage by Assassination (part of 1991 portmanteau The Gulf War… What Next?).

There’s plenty of fresh material on offer too, with some 20 premieres, including a sharp new doc on life in the Syrian Golan heights, a revealing account of the vast quarrying industries in the West Bank, and the story of a spectacular kite flying world record bid in Gaza. Exceptional shorts and animations run throughout the programme, along with some bold new experimental works from Palestine and beyond.

For more information on the festival visit Palestine Film Foundation

Suicide Note from Palestine: New play opens at The Freedom Theatre on April 4

One day before her final exams, Amal has a concerning nightmare: she is Palestine and she has decided to die.

Amal’s nightmare drafts between confusion, torture and despair – notions set as strange characters that symbolise some of the key players in world politics that shape the land, history, politics and the occupation of her country. Interrogated and manipulated, Amal is forced into a comatose state and can barely speak.

– This play is important because it’s pointing at the place of the pain inside the Palestinian people’s minds and hearts, says the Director, Nabil Al-Raee.

Suicide Note from Palestine is a window into the younger generation of Palestine; a generation just as hopeless about their present as they are about the future. The play provides a rare glimpse on the general depression, confusion and concerns of a people regarding its land.

Suicide Note from Palestine is a physical video/visual art performance, inspired by 4:48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane. It is an exploration of identity and uses social satire to present an image of the national trauma of the Palestinian people.

Suicide Note from Palestine is performed at The Freedom Theatre, Jenin Refugee Camp:
Thursday April 4 Première @16:00
Saturday April 6 @12:00 and @16:00
Sunday April 7 @12:00 and @16:00

For more information visit The Freedom Theatre website.

Let Gaza surprise you!

By Samah Sabawi

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Gaza is one of the most reported on and yet least understood places on earth.  Its mere mention conjures up images of war victims, war criminals, piles of rubble, militants with guns, dead children and weeping mothers.  A simple google search will bring up disturbing images of heart break, terror and destruction.  But all of this is an infliction on a place that has neither surrendered its identity nor lost its beauty to decades of violent Israeli occupation.

Gaza is a city of many tales.  While some are about loss, grief and misery, many others are about enduring love, triumphant moments, tenacity, passion, music and hope that lives beyond the confines of the siege and the occupation.  If you dig deeper than the negative headlines and the devastating news reports you will find many pleasant surprises.  You can take a walk along Gaza’s gorgeous fields, enjoy its magical sunsets, get to know its warm people, visit its ancient sites and eat its delicious dishes.  You will find in Gaza everything that would make you love life with a passion!  So join me here to explore some of Gaza’s unknown side.

The Arts:

There is a common belief that Gaza’s art scene is all but dead.  While it may be true that art in general is not a great priority for the people in Gaza who are too concerned with bigger financial and political issues, Gazan artists continue to create and to excel in their fields.  There is also an appreciation of the need to encourage art in children starting from a young age.

One establishment worthy of salutation for supporting the arts is the Qattan Centre for the Child in Gaza.  This cultural centre is an oasis for the hearts and the minds of children.  Equipped with a large library painted in vibrant colors and comfortable eye soothing furniture the QCC in Gaza focuses on developing the children emotionally and intellectually through visual art, music, education, cultural events and much more.

Below are some images of the QCC in Gaza.  Keep in mind all of the paintings you’ll see in some of these photos were in fact painted by children under 15 years of age at the centre.

The Qattan center was built on land donated by the Gaza municipality and has succeeded in meeting its goal of creating an educational and stimulating space for children and their caregivers.  Parents are encouraged to join their children in the library, engage with them over art and craft activities, or just watch them proudly as they perform their song and dance routines.

Membership at the QCC is free of charge to all children in Gaza from all walks of life and some of the classes offered charge a small symbolic fee.  Many of the events are also free of charge such as the concerts captured in the video below that took place as part of the winter camp activities in January 2013.  In this video below you’ll see a variety of instruments, you’ll hear music of both Arab and western origins ranging from Gershwin to Darweesh.

Also worthy of special salutation is the Gaza Music School and its incredible teachers and talented children.  The children featured in the next video are nine years of age.  They are very dedicated to the art they practice in spite of all the challenges they face including Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Music School  in 2009.

 

The landscape

The Gaza Strip is densely populated mostly by refugees who fled Israel’s war of ethnic cleansing in 1948 and have not been allowed to return to their homes since.  As the population continues to grow in the besieged strip the natural landscape changes to make way for more cement structures and buildings to accommodate this growth.

However, population growth is not the only challenge facing Gaza’s green spaces.  Agricultural land  is shrinking as Israel usurps more of Gaza’s water supplies and if that’s not enough, Israel’s siege, blockade, frequent bombardment and occasional land incursions have left their mark on many of Gaza’s farming land.  A recommended report that sheds great light on this is the UNISPAL report Farming without Land, Fishing without Water.

Below are two pics of bombed trees in our farm in Gaza. The first depicts a tree totally uprooted from the power of a one ton bomb blast.   The second photo  depicts a tree that was uprooted from the blast, flew in the air and actually landed straight on top of another tree.

Despite all of the challenges and the uncertainties of Israel’s incursions and bombings, some farmers have insisted on maintaining their land.  When visiting their farms you get a sense of what Gaza’s landscape looked like before Israel’s war of ethnic cleansing began.   You can imagine how before the refugees were chased into the far corners of their homeland to settle into camps under occupation, how most of Gaza’s natural landscape would have looked like.

The Sea

Perhaps the most important feature of Gaza is its sea.  It is the only landscape that remains unchanged, unaffected by the occupation and the aggression.  The sea is an open recreational space that is free of charge.  For Gazan families the sea is a cure for all of life’s problems.

The food

Finally, no matter where you go to in Palestine, you will always be overwhelmed with warm hospitality and great food.  Gaza is no different.  Here are some pics of some of my favourite dishes, but if you’re looking for a more comprehensive list along with recepies I highly recommend you visit The Gaza Kitchen.  Bon appétit or as they say in Gaza Saha we afya!

Arab Australian photographer Sabra a finalist in the Qantas Spirit of Youth awards

Gazing at a portrait of Gaza

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Stephanie Zevenbergen

March 5, 2013

Hume Weekly 

HIS photographs portray a silent picture of suffering in Palestine, of people stuck in violent conflict.

Telling the stories of refugees in Palestine through photography is close to Ahmad Sabra’s heart.

For the 27-year-old Broadmeadows resident, a recent trip to the Gaza Strip in Palestine proved memorable in more ways than one. Firstly, it was a trip back to his native land; now the photos he took there are receiving accolades in Australia.

Sabra, a photographer, is one of 13 national finalists in the Qantas spirit of youth awards 365 (SOYA), which offer the first-prize winner $5000 for air travel.

Last year, across 11 categories, SOYA drew more than 20,000 entries from more than 2400 young artists, designers, filmmakers, photographers and musicians.

Sabra is also one of 53 finalists for the National Portrait Gallery’s national photographic portrait prize. The winner takes home $25,000.

He says photographing refugees has personal meaning for him as he migrated to Australia from Lebanon in 1997. ‘‘I have a soft spot for them,’’ he says. ‘‘Growing up in Lebanon we used to see all the refugee camps. Going back to Gaza and seeing their living conditions motivated me to do more with Palestine.’’

Sabra’s work includes portraits of Palestinian orphans, young refugees and fishermen.

The photo he entered in the National Portrait Gallery is of a child whose father was killed by Israel.

‘‘The child in the orphanage has got a quirky smile on his face,’’ he says.

‘‘Most of the people in Gaza are refugees. My whole idea was to document living as a refugee.

‘‘Government policies in Australia should be supporting the Palestinian cause. Another reason I take these photos is to raise awareness of what they go through and to possibly help.’’

The national photographic portrait prize-winner will be announced on Thursday and the SOYA winner on March 11.

This article appeared in Hume Weekly

(A correction was made since this article was first posted, Hume Weekly made an error  Sabra is of  Syrian Arab origin, therefore the title of this posting changed from Palestinian Australian to Arab Australian.  Thanks to Sabra for bringing this to my attention)

Gaza Artists Union Defends Culture From Political Warfare

Roughly 600 Gazan artists held a conference in Gaza City on Feb. 28 to form a new Palestinian artists’ union in a bid to preserve their work. The gathering of the General Union of Palestinian Artists is the first of its kind to be held in Gaza in two decades.

The conference sought to address Gaza’s neglected music and art scene, which has been hampered by war and Palestinian political division. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Yusuf Almeghari, a member of the conference steering committee, said that the gathering concluded with a series of recommendations, including electing a 78-member board, which would involve all the political parties in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

“I can tell you that many of those who attended had tears [in their eyes] because it was the first time we held such a gathering, which, we hope, will constitute the beginning of organized artistic activities across the territory,” Almeghari said.

Wars with Israel and political infighting between Hamas and Fatah have resulted in a lack of interest in Gaza’s art scene as well as funding for it. As a consequence, musicians in the Gaza Strip face significant challenges, including a dearth of professional training and fellow professional musicians.

Dwindling art in Gaza

In 1986, Mohammad Abu al-Seoud, a 50-year-old local musician in the central Gaza Strip town of Deir Elbalah, began composing and writing melodies for patriotic songs, but the veteran composer stopped working in 2004, citing a lack of support from authorities.

“I have spent all my life in music, and I have performed many melodies, even on Palestine TV prior to the 2007 political split in Gaza. Yet, I have increasingly felt disappointed as the musical scene in Gaza has become worse than ever, mainly because of the lack of music schools and professional training,” Seoud told Al-Monitor at his modest family home.

One band that took part in the conference was the National Band for Folkloric Palestinian Arts, which is one of the few leading national bands in the occupied Gaza Strip that primarily performs patriotic songs.

“Our band was established in 1996, and since then it has taken part in a series of performances locally and regionally, including festivals in Haifa, which was a Palestinian city prior to 1948, as well as in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia,” said Walid Ataiya, the band’s deputy director. The band consists of 35 members, including 7 women between the ages of 18 and 25, who perform the folkloric Levantine dabka dance.

In addition to producing new content, the band also revives famous Palestinian nationalist poetry, such as the late Mahmoud Darwish’s “We Can Never Forget Our Ancestors, We Can Never Forget the Days of Dignity,” Ataiya explained. The band’s ability to perform in Gaza, however, has been routinely disrupted since 2006 due to the political climate.

Fatah-Hamas split harms music scene

According to Swailam Alabsi, a well-known scenarist and film director in Gaza, the composition of patriotic songs has suffered because of a lack of patronage by the relevant authorities, as well as the absence of music schools, as reported by Asmaa al-Ghoul.

Patriotic music, once a hallmark of Palestine’s national resistance movement, has fractured along factional lines, according to Alabsi. “I personally have written hundreds of patriotic songs since 1967. The songs used to promote national trends, but since the Oslo peace accords, unfortunately, patriotic songs have begun to appear in different forms and colors, each representing a political faction,” he said.

Regardless, the national band continues to write patriotic songs that “only go with the national aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Alabsi explained.

“Even in the time of Oslo itself, I personally composed a song that was anti-Palestinian Authority corruption during the time of late President Yasser Arafat himself. Arafat told me, ‘Do not worry Swailam, the situation will get better,’” he said.

The internal split among Palestinian factions resulted in the national band being used as a political weapon of Hamas and Fatah. The band has faced restrictions in Gaza and an attempted takeover by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“We have been facing lots of restrictions from local authorities here. For instance, they will not allow us to broadcast a certain song on a local radio station, or they prevent a certain singer from performing a certain song. We want real patronage of patriotic clips or songs that reflect the national Palestinian scene independent of any political affiliation,” Alabsi said while calling for Hamas and Fatah to repair their differences.

Nahed al-Hour, director of the national band, revealed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had issued a decree three years ago to place the band under the auspices of the Ramallah-based authority.

“So far, such a decree has not seen the light for reasons that we do not know,” he said, appealing to all parties concerned to support his band and respect its non-partisan stance.

Union brings hope

The formation of the new union is in response to the neglect and politicization of Gaza’s art scene. Among the recommendations are, according to Almeghari, establishing acting and music schools in Gaza, having musicians and actors participate in festivals abroad to represent Palestinian art and folklore, and holding local shows at public theaters to generate much-needed income for the continued development of the arts in Gaza.

Almeghari emphasized that those elected at the conference will represent the Gaza union at an upcoming general summit for the Palestinian arts, to be held in either Ramallah or Gaza. The new union is part of a growing movement of grassroots Palestinians frustrated with the continued political division between Hamas and Fatah negatively affecting Palestinian life.

“We deeply hope that the current political split will come to an end once and for all and that we Palestinian artists will have our own home for all of us, irrespective of political affiliations,” Almeghari said.

Editor’s note: Yusuf Almeghari is a relative of the author.

Rami Almeghari is an independent journalist based in Gaza.

This article appeared here  http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/03/gaza-forms-new-artist-union.html#ixzz2MPpx3o1P

Adania Shibli: A Decade of Palestinian Artists in Paris

A piece by Hani Zorob titled: A Long Egyptian Series.

 

Mustafa Mustafa

Al-Akhbar English

Published Thursday, February 14, 2013

The award-winning Palestinian novelist Adania Shibli interviewed 15 up-and-coming Palestinian artists for her new book, Hirak, orMovement.

Jerusalem – Between 1999 and 2009, 15 Palestinian artists passed through the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris (CIAP), which offers residencies to artists from around the world to work in the city for a period of two months to a year.

This is where Palestinian novelist Adania Shibli got the idea for her latest book, Hirak. Using video conferencing, she interviewed the group of Palestinian artists who were offered residencies at the CIAP.

The book, available in both Arabic and French, probes questions at the heart of the Palestinian experience such as occupation, exile, and the state of constant movement to which the artists are subjected.

The Palestinians featured in the book are sculptors, painters, and installation and video artists. One of them is painter Hani Zorob, born 1976, whose experience in many ways captures that of a new generation of Palestinian artists.

“My place of birth in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza greatly influenced my life overall. Growing up during the first intifada, the resources available to a child interested in art were very limited,” he said. “My canvas was the walls of the city, especially on national occasions. My tools were either a pencil or the shabby wax crayons distributed by UNRWA.”He remembers being overwhelmed the first time he entered an art store in Paris. “I didn’t buy anything because there were so many things I hadn’t seen before and had no idea how to use them.”

As for Shadi Zaqzouq, born 1981, he raised the issue of how foreign audiences tend to interact with Palestinian art as “political production.”

He began to think about the issue after successfully selling every single one of his pieces displayed at his exhibit titled “Merely a Dream.” When he discovered that most of his works were bought by people who actively support the Palestinian cause, it made him wonder whether this meant that he was a good artist.

Artist Majd Abdul-Hamid, born 1988, had a similar experience while attending the International Academy of Art in Ramallah.

“I noticed there were a lot of foreign artists who come to work with students at the academy due to the fact that we are Palestinians,” he said. “None of these instructors critiqued my work based on its appearance – they took it easy on me because I was a Palestinian student.”

This article first appeared here

Video “Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak Out”

The Real News on repression and cultural resistance in Gaza with footage of Tales of a City by the Sea’s public reading