Walls & Checkpoints

Tarek al Ghoussein
Originally uploaded by marcynewman.

Last night I went to see the new exhibit at my favorite art gallery in Amman, Darat al Fanun. The current exhibit, “The Wall & the Check Points” is an exhibit consisting of five Palestinian artists: Emily Jacir, Rula Halawani, Tarek al Ghoussein, Dana Erekat, and Rashid Masharawi. Tarek al Ghoussein’s images, one of which is pictured above, are a series of photographs that question the representation of Palestinian as terrorist. There are two series of his photographs, one series of self-portraits as depicted above and then a series of images on rice paper of the Annexation Wall.

Emily Jacir’s photographs and video art installation were also really compelling. One series of color photographs was entitled, “If I could do anything for you, anywhere in Palestine, what would it be?” In the exhibit, there are typed answers to this question from various Palestinians in the West Bank and Ghaza, and in the diaspora. One person asked her to eat kaneife (a sweet) in Al Quds (Jerusalem). Another asked her to drink water from her village. Another asked her to visit the grave of his mother in Al Quds. Yet another asked her to pick some fruits and vegetables in her village in Ghaza. The exhibit is a wonderful way to both illustrate the daily life of people in Palestine and also teach viewers about freedom of movement issues. Because Jacir has an American passport she can move relatively freely throughout the Occupied Territories. But all of the people she asked had the wrong passport, the wrong Israeli-issued ID card (reminds me of June Jordan’s poem “Poem About my Rights” ). For instance, one person has family in Lebanon so even though he has a U.S. passport he can’t risk going to Palestine and getting an Israeli stamp in his passport that would keep him from visiting his family. Or the person who asked her to visit Ghaza lives illegally in Birzeit as a student; if she leaves she risks never being able to return to school so she has to remain there until she receives her degree. One person lives in Area C and has an Israeli land line in his house; he needs to go to Al Quds to pay the bill, but his huwiyya (ID) won’t allow him to enter Al Quds. Even Jacir’s artist’s statement powerfully describes how ironic it is that she can only enter her country and move (relatively) freely within it because of her American citizenship.

All of the art was amazing. As usual, I need to go back and spend more time there. One of the pieces Jacir has there is a film that she made by putting the camera in her purse, showing her walk to work for eight days while the Israeli Occupation Forces occupied this road. I was only able to see two days of this walk. It’s a bit difficult to watch because the camera bumps around in her bag, but it’s also really interesting—especially the relative quiet on the film footage I saw; the only sounds I heard were her footsteps and some car horns honking.

All of these issues once again make me think of parallels to South Africa, which is illustrated in an interesting article in the Guardian today.



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