by Anna Schaefer
Giving voice to the "forgotten survivors of the world"1 is the project of the American-Palestinian artist John Halaka. On view at the Palestinian Art Court - AlHoash Gallery2 (East Jerusalem) until June 28th, the exhibition "Faces from Erased Places" by John Halaka relays the memory of the Nakba through photographs & writings. As a metaphor for Palestinians the name of the exhibition points out the fact that not only places have been erased but also memory.
Born in Egypt in 1957 to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother, John Halaka has been living in the United States since he is 12. Although he wasnít born in Palestine, says he is of Palestinian descent. For him "being Palestinian is an affiliation with the human rights violations which the Palestinians continue to experience3". His artwork has been exhibited internationally and on many occasions in Palestinian cultural centers. John Halaka is a multidisciplinary artist and an activist for the right of return of the Palestinian people and his whole work focuses on that.
Al Hoash Gallery. Inside the exhibition (Photo: Anna Schaefer)
The artist took photos of Palestinians in Lebanon or in Palestinian territories, mostly living in refugee camps, and at the same time collected their life stories. This exhbition isnít only the occasion for John Halaka to exhibit his work, it is above all a way to contribute to the transmission of Palestine heritage through culture, and actually through cultural events. With 21 testimonies and portrayals, "Faces from Erased Places" is a special project in order to commemorate the 70 years since the Nakba. In Arabic Nakba means "catastrophe" or "cataclysm" and characterizes the exile of almost 750, 000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948. Every year since then, Israelis and Palestinians both commemorate this day but for opposite reasons.
Hands of Time Ė A Palestinian holding his old passport by John Halaka (Photo: Anna Schaefer)
"Faces from Erased Places" is a multidisciplinary cultural project which aims to preserve Palestinian culture and keep memory alive, but which mostly "attemps to make the images and narratives of Palestinian refugees indelible, and their personal experiences in exile unforgettable"4. The artistís motive was to share the sense of resilience and perseverance of the Palestinian people, "geographically divided as a people, but psychologically united".
"Transmission" constitutes the core idea of his work: To transmit Palestiniansí memory so that the young wonít forget and in order to create a strong cultural basis for Palestinians to be able to build a nation. It is also a way to support "Palestinian survivors". "Survivors" for John Halaka because, in their everyday life, they do try to survive "colonization" but also the attempt at what he considers to be "ethnic cleansing".
The scenography of the exhibition is very sucessful. A booklet accompanies your visit which allow you to carry off Johnís work to your home.
Al-Hoash Gallery is open from 9 a.m to 5 p.m everyday except Friday and Sunday. Check their website for more informations about the cultural center: https://www.alhoashgallery.org
1John Halaka, exhibitionís booklet