A.M. Qattan Foundation Organises Community and Cultural Events in Khan Yunis
The Educational Research and Development Programme (ERDP) / A.M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) has recently organised several cultural events that engaged the local community in Khan Yunis city. These activities are part of the Culture, Art and Social Engagement project, implemented by the AMQF with co-funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The project is implemented under the supervision of Coordinators Hamdan al-Agha and Mohammed Shubeir, as well as Research Abeer Suhweil.
As part of the project, a group of students engaged in a research process. In a series of interactive workshops, students brainstormed methods and tools, which they would share with their local community in order to jointly investigate community issues they had already observed. To this avail, students used the photograph as a tool of expression and interaction.
Al-Agha, project coordinator in Khan Yunis, said that students engaged in a research process, in which they used the camera in field trips to monitor community issues. These included slums, abandoned greenhouses, sewage dump, rainwater collection pools, plant nurseries, private museums, and the Barquq Castle wall.
In the course of the field work, interviews were conducted with citizens to observe community concerns and raise research questions to explore the causes and potentials of these concerns. Accordingly, this experience was documented by students who wrote down their own reflections on the field trips and analysed interviews. It was also visually documented by producing a documentary film.
In Khan Yunis, products, including writings, photos, films and paintings, were used as a source of a participatory process, which engaged the local community. A series of encounters were organised. These included an encounter with community activists in Khan Yunis, focusing on the role of activists in community change. Du’a Sharab, a participant in the encounter, said: “In Khan Yunis, we haven’t seen such an in-depth project that connected students to their community and used arts.”
Women’s role in society
A workshop brought together a group of ladies and mothers. The encounter provided a space for an interactive dialogue, which examined women’s role in society, deconstructed social dilemmas women face in Khan Yunis, and raised questions about the restrictions placed by the society’s view and patriarchal power, posing a grave concern to women. In addition to exploring the scope of social responsibility, the encounter also addressed women’s relationship with their social surroundings and children.
Isra’ Kalakh, a participant in the project, said: “I’ve always dreamed of changing the way my society thinks. Finally, I’ll be face to face with the society so that we can work together towards a change.”
Along the same vein, a dialogue session was held with a group of young people and university students to discuss the role the youth play in community action for a better reality and further volunteerism as a path to change. Mohammed Shubeir, project coordinator, indicated that the project managed to promote tangible contributions and influence by the local community. The impact is widening and involving partners, who would launch an in-depth dialogue and strengthen individuals’ roles in participation and accountability.
The project team is scoring progress by engaging community partners who embrace the project’s vision, start a social dialogue within the local community, and reflect that dialogue and research process through various forms of art.
Schools and community development
In the context of the community-based research process, two workshops were held with teachers in collaboration with the Ministry of Education District Directorate Office in Khan Yunis. Workshops stressed the importance of enhancing the role of schools in community development. Putting aside the concept of educational attainment, contexts and roles need to be created for individuals to engage with the local community. A video clip was presented about Palestinian Scholar Munir Fasheh.
Abeer Suhweil, project researcher, said: “Many teachers blew the whistle. They questioned the type of education we need so that children can go beyond the stereotypical space. A presentation also reviewed the project’s experience in using arts and drama with a number of students in a project, which linked them to their reality and surrounding environment. Learning would be different from that inside the classroom, where students are recipients, rather than producers, of knowledge.”
In the next stage, the project will continue to create real partnerships with municipalities and local government units. To create different roles with decision makers, these collaborations will build on encounters with students, neighbourhood committees and community as a whole.
The Culture, Art and Social Engagement project is implemented in several communities, including Qatanna, Ni’lin, Anabta, Jericho, Qalqiliya and Khan Yunis. Teams of researchers, community activists and artists work towards exploring community concerns and integrating art and culture in life practices. Rather than working for the sake of people, the project motivates people to work for themselves. They work in tandem with their own perspectives and needs and use art and tools of art as contexts of vision, expression and intervention. The project features visual art exhibitions and art works in the public space, as well as film screenings, plays and publications. All these are a product of a process of community research and workshops that engage students, mothers, artists and teachers.