PHOTO ESSAY: Looking for Palestine

Palestine

We’re all brought up with certain clichés about Palestine.

We expect work about it to show us individuals consumed by victimhood or criminality. Images so harsh that we convince ourselves that the situation, however tragic, simply cannot be helped. Guns, blood and wailing mothers, piercing screams and bodies consumed with rage and grief. We see victims whose character has become defined and deformed by the occupation and apartheid.

Understanding a complex society such as Palestine in this narrow way takes away from the humanity and diversity of ordinary Palestinians. But there is no Palestinian ‘defect’, there is no ‘other’. And Palestine simply is not the place so many of us presume to know.

Palestine exists in an intangible manner, as a space of memory and future hope. It is a promise, constantly on the threshold of a physical reality. And the Palestinians I met are confident that Palestine will continue to develop and mature, despite its shrinking territory.

Palestine is insisting on its existence, refusing to be forgotten because Palestinians defiantly live their identity everyday. They have been resisting by singing, dancing, reciting poetry, celebrating their heritage, their craftsmanship and by remembering.

They refuse to forget who they are.

Hanin Taraby is a Palestinian actress, citizen of Israel. She works with numerous theatres and ensembles both within Israel and the occupied West Bank and has appeared in TV productions and movies such as ‘Lesh Sabreen’ (2009) and ‘The Cup Reader’ (2013).

Shehada Shalalda is a violin maker. When the Al Kamandjâti music school opened next to his family home in Ramallah, he could hear the music across the yard, sparking his interest to pick up the violin. When a violin maker visited the school, he used the opportunity to learn more about how to make, repair and service violins. Shehada eventually studied violin making and repair in the United Kingdom.

Ala Shalalda is a young musician who studies the violin at the Al Kamandjâti music school in Ramallah. The school first opened in 2005 and is located next door to her home. Her older brother, Shehada, trained to become a violin maker in the UK. Ala practices daily on the very first violin her brother made.

Ihab Zahdeh is a professional actor and director from Hebron. He works with several ensembles across the West Bank and has performed at the Globe in London. He is also the co-founder of Yes Theatre (Masra7 Na’am) in Hebron, a community theatre project which promotes performing arts for children and young adults.

The members of Third Eye, a rap group, just before going on stage at a concert in Birzeit. All members of the group are students at Birzeit University, but hope to be able to make a living from their music one day. Their lyrics and music are political, covering all aspects of life under the occupation.

Ronza Asfour is the owner of Express Nails, a beauty salon in Ramallah. Ronza is a qualified teacher, but her passions are beauty and business. She was determined to open her own salon and attended numerous training courses in order to be able to offer professional treatments. Ronza is also the only qualified female tattoo artist in the West Bank.

Faisal Barghouthi is a Palestinian filmmaker who has been involved with Idiom Films and countless Palestinian short films and features, such as ‘Lesh Sabreen’ (2009) and ‘Blued’ (2013). Faisal is also a farmer, passionate about the traditional, organic farming methods he learned from his grandfather.

DAM (brothers Suhell and Tamer Nafar and Mahmoud Jreri) on stage, at a concert at Birzeit University. Their music reflects the realities of Palestinians living both in Israel and the West Bank. They are extremely popular in the West Bank, where they often perform.