Issue No.
172, August 2012 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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     Exhibition of the Month

I am Silwan

Who are you? Where are you from? What is the local culture, history, and identity of your neighbourhood? These are the questions that Alison Ramer’s arts advocacy project, “Image and Identity,” asks Palestinian youth to articulate using images. The most recent in the series, the “I am Al Walajeh” photography exhibition, was attended by over 100 students, children, families, and art professionals at Dar Al-Kalima College in Bethlehem.

The youth in Al Walajeh’s images are expressly vacant and removed. They tell a story of a once-thriving agricultural community who were slowly turned into refugees and pushed from their land. They also tell the story of the challenge of photographing Al Walajeh, where the land is occupied by several settlements, the Apartheid Wall, and Israeli soldiers constantly on patrol. In addition, they tell the story of the struggle to photograph people due to the heavy levels of suspicion in the community as a result of the Israeli army using photographs to persecute people and the cultural conservatism, which argues that women should not be seen in public.

“Image and Identity” started in 2011 with the “I am Nabi Saleh” project. Under the instruction of Issa Freij, ten youth from Nabi Saleh spent the summer learning how to use photography to tell a story about their village and to advocate for their rights. The students’ images documented social issues in the village, from poverty and lack of water, to children playing with tear gas bombs and rubber bullets, which are left over from clashes between Israeli soldiers, villagers, and international activists. The images also show the local culture and heritage of Nabi Saleh, with its special pastries preserved by women who make and sell them to build their local economy.

In order to encourage youth to consider higher education in the arts, the “I am Nabi Saleh” photography exhibition was held at the International Academy of Art Ramallah.

In 2012, “Image and Identity” became a project of Grassroots Jerusalem, an urban and human rights organisation that focuses on Palestinian Jerusalem, and one of their local partners, the Ansar Center in Al Walajeh, created the exhibition. Ten students (ages 14 to 16) worked with photographer Ahed Izhiman to create the “I am Al Walajeh” exhibition at Dar Al-Kalima.

In August 2012, “Image and Identity” will work in Silwan with both Issa Freij and Ahed Izhiman to create “I am Silwan.” Starting in the fall, the exhibitions will start travelling nationally and internationally, with the first show being held in Victoria, Australia.

If you would like to host a show locally or internationally, please contact Alison Ramer at alison@grassrootsjerusalem.org.

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