Profiles: The Biography of a City Exhibition Inaugurated in Qalqiliya
30 April 2018
Ramallah – (A. M. Qattan Foundation – 30 April 2018)
On Saturday, 28 April 2018, the Educational Research and Development Programme (ERDP) / A. M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) inaugurated the art exhibition Profiles: The Biography of a City in Qalqiliya. The exhibition is part of Culture, Art and Community Participation, a project implemented by the AMQF in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Running for three days, Profiles: The Biography of a City was launched on the Al-Quds Open University (AOU) campus in Qalqiliya. The opening ceremony brought together the Governor of Qalqiliya Rafe’ Rawajbeh, Qalqiliya Deputy Mayor Basem al-Hashem, AMQF Deputy Director General Fida Touma, Director of the Qalqiliya AOU Branch Jamal Rabah, ERDP Director Wasim Al-Kurdi, and Project Manager Malik Al-Remawi.
The exhibition culminated an intensive workshop, in which teachers and community activists worked with Palestinian artists to develop their own art projects about their city of Qalqiliya in its social and political context. In early May 2017, these teachers and community activists created The Third Hand art exhibition in the first round of the Culture, Art and Community Participation project.
In addition to a process of search, participants in workshops were introduced to artworks of brilliant artists, such as Mona Hatoum, Sliman Mansour, and Vera Tamari. The search contributed to creating a living visual perception of ideas. It addressed issues away from stereotypes and consecration of symbols and slogans.
Bashar Khalaf, a participant in the exhibition, said: “The Third Hand was a collective experience. In this new exhibition, Profiles, the team worked on independent models. Self-experience was crystallised as a model that simulated the community through a personal perspective.” According to Khalaf, this unique experience did not break with the concept of collective work. On the contrary, it involved a dialogue, exchange of opinions, and self-reformulation, very much like small circles that make up the larger circle of the community.
Artists define Profiles as a biography of a city. That biography is more than just a narration of events or pictures of sites, buildings and streets. It is the biography of human life and the question of meaning, which transforms the place into a “home”. In the exhibition, works vary in terms of the forms of art. The searching artists used these as a reflection of the biography of their city.
Lena Dawood chose to present a performance. She sits at a small square table with an empty chair in front of her. Any visitor can sit on the chair in order to “communicate”. Dawood says that communication is like water and air. Without it, we turn into stillness. “For us to restore the soul, visibility and ability to endure life, we must talk, we must see. Talk to me so that I see you. Look at me so that I hear you.” Dawoud concluded.
Visitors watch a blurred picture of a “profile” by Manar Zeid. The picture hangs down from the ceiling, with a painting of the city at the back and another a territory the front. Zeid described both paintings as revealing doubts in the middle. At times, they retreat, but come back with a clear disclosure of all doubts.
Zeid considers her installation work as a “breakthrough”, which presents itself as free of any claim or previous memory. “During my lifetime of 30 years, like others, I have formed an intimate memory of the place, which has contained me. I am desperate to defend it. I am haunted by ghosts and the stories of mothers and grandmothers […] I will little, but my town was huge. My memory has continued to be one of a little girl, inflamed with imagination of the past.” Zeid explained.
Maha Atmawi’s Absence is a video installation on canvas. It tells the story of dwindling oranges as synonymous of Qalqiliya. The work inquires Abeer Odeh’s As if it is an Extraordinary Pain, using sound and video on canvas. It highlights “life” and incessant attempts to live by a representation to a windmill that goes round uninterrupted.
Through several artworks visitors saw other tales from Qalqiliya. These were Not Your Place by Salam Abu Libdeh, Flood by Suhaib Mansour, A Residential Building by Ismat Zeid, Green Qalqiliya by Said Abu Khader, and Stop by Lamis Turki.
According to Al-Rimawi, the exhibition and artworks narrate the biography of the city from a personal, individual perspective. At the same time, they also narrate the biography of the project, namely Culture, Art and Community Participation. This strong presence of art turns the familiar mould of things upside down. It turns things back to perspective, or makes things restore their capability of being seen. Overtime, things lose their visibility and disappear from the field of vision. They become mental moulds and linguistic metaphors of the kind of the green town, the town of water, oranges and guavas, the town that receives strangers. Things and facts are covered by a linguistic intensity and the rhetoric of the ancient narrative. Hence, art comes in to remove the mask, adjust the vision, and replant inquiry everywhere.
“What happened through the project comprised processes of search, neither into oneself nor into the city, but into the relationship between oneself and the city. This search has produced these “confused” works: overlaps between the shadow and light, between the green trees and the grey concrete, between the present and the past, between the absence and the presence, and between rotation and stability. These confused overlaps essentially reflect a state of powerful clarity of awareness. Search has produced a moment of extremely clear and strong awareness. Moments of awareness that constituted a “breakthrough of knowledge” of oneself and the city, of what is present, of what is absent, of what lives, and of what dies. Moments of awareness have produced a strong state of confusion; a state called art.” Al-Rimawi concluded.
The exhibition was produced by a wider group of community activists, including Wisam Shraim, Dawlah Zeid, Isra Abu Libdeh, and Ghadah Abu Libdeh, who worked under the supervision of artists Bashar Khalaf, Ra’fat Said, Eid Aziz, and Bilal al-Khatib. Supervision was also provided by the ERDP Manager of the Languages and Humanities Track Malik Al-Remawi, and coordinators Abdul Karim Hussein and Samah al-Khawaja.
Co-funded by the SDC, the Culture, Art and Community Participation project was launched by the AMQF in 2017. For the second year in a row, the project continues to search into and simulate community issues through art, engaging community in a dialogue in several areas across Palestine.