Reclaiming Space – Art in the Context of Displacement and the Will to Return

On the 5th of October 2016 the third edition of Qalandiya International, an arts collaboration across Palestinian communities, was launched under the title “The Sea is Mine”. In the words of the initiators, by placing Palestine on a cultural map this collaboration aims to “position Palestine and the Palestinians in their rightful historic and geographical place” and thus to assert their individual and collective rights to return including access to the sea.

RE/viewing Jerusalem

As one of eight participating cities, Jerusalem is contributing to the festival in several ways. The Palestinian Art Court Al Hoash is currently showing an exhibition and is inviting visitors to RE/view Palestinian Jerusalem in weekly interactive tours. In her opening speech on the 6th October 2016 Alia Rayyan, the director of Al Hoash, urged visitors to be present during these tours and to “reclaim public space” in the city before it is taken away, as “the situation gets worse every day”. The Welsh artist Deborah Aguirre Jones experienced this curtailment of public space in East Jerusalem first-hand when working on her contribution to Al Hoash´s tour. She had planned to water grass in the Rockefeller Garden and to bring it back to live. Since the garden was, however, closed by the municipality before the completion of her project, Aguirre Jones constructed a small replacement for the park. She formed the Arabic word “hoon” – here – with grass and arranged it on a trailer proclaiming: “We are still here and we continue to be here”.

photo credit: Flash90

Another way in which visitors can RE/view Jerusalem is through storytelling. On the 6th of October a young Palestinian named Amer took us to the Herod’s Gate (Bab al Zahra), next to the police station, to share a story about the daily madness of Jerusalem life and the trouble occupation brings– “I felt like I was in a movie theater”, Amer recounted, “watching an action flick, so the first thing that came to my mind was ‘I need popcorn’.” When Amer turned around, he faced a tank. And decided to go. Now he is back to claim his place.

photo credit: Flash90

The Jerusalem Show

Another venue in Jerusalem participating in Qalandiya International 2016 is the Al Mamal Foundation for Contemporary Art, located in an old tiles factory in the Old City of Jerusalem and its surrounding buildings. Together, actors in the neighborhood host the eighth edition of the Jerusalem Show curated by Vivian Ziherl – entitled “Before and After Origins”. Here artists from South Africa, Australia, Burma and Palestine amongst others are tackling narratives of origin and impressively demonstrate the strong will to keep those narratives alive, even in circumstance of displacement and colonialism.

Al Mamal is the driving force of an initiative aiming to revive the Old City starting with the New Gate neighborhood. Jack Persekian, curator of Al Mamal, is committed to “bring arts in and make space accessible”. The Jerusalem Show, for sure, is a first step in that direction and an opportunity for visitors and inhabitants to discover places that are usually closed and explore various perspectives on return.

Weekly Walks RE/viewing Jerusalem: 4 pm starting from Al Hoash, October 16, 22, and 29, and November 5, 2016

More information about the ongoing events:http://www.qalandiyainternational.org/