“I am Al Walajeh” a part of the “Image and Identity” Arts Advocacy project I started in 2011, opened Wednesday, July 11th at Dar Kalima College in Bethlehem to over 120 attendees. The project teaches Palestinian youth how to creatively articulate local culture, history, identity and space using images.
The Al Walajeh’s youth’s images are expressly vacant and removed. They tell a story of a once thriving agricultural community, slowly turned into refugees and pushed from their land. They also tell the story of the challenge of photographing Al Walajeh, whose land is occupied by several settlements, the Apartheid Wall and Israeli soldiers constantly on patrol. Since most Al Walajeh’s population travels outside for work, the children struggled to find people to photograph in their homes and village.
The project is a continuation my arts advocacy work, which started in 2011 with the “I am Nabi Saleh” project. Under the instruction of Issa Freij, ten youth from Nabi Saleh spent the summer learning how to use photography to tell a story about their village and to advocate for their child rights. The students images documented social issues in the village from poverty and lack of water to children playing with tear gas bombs and rubber bullets – trash left over from clashes between Israeli soldiers, villagers and international activists. The images also show the local culture and heritage of Nabi Saleh, with its special pastries preserved by women who use them to build their local economy.
In order to encourage youth to consider higher education in the arts, the “I am Nabi Saleh” Photography Exhibition was held at the International Academy of Art Ramallah.
In 2012, “Image and Identity” became a project of Grassroots Jerusalem, an urban and human rights organization focused on mapping Palestinian civil society in Jerusalem, and one of their local partners, the Ansar Center in Al Walajeh, to create the exhibition. Ten students (14 – 16) worked with a photography instructor to create the “I am Al Walajeh” exhibition at Dar Kalima.
In August 2012, “Image and Identity” will work in Silwan with both Issa Freij and Ahed Izhiman to create the “I am Silwan” Photography Exhibition. Following the completion of “I am Nabi Saleh,” “I am Al Walajeh” and “I am Silwan,” a national exhibition will be shown in historic Palestinian cities and travelling to Australia, the United States and Europe (pending funding). If you would like to host the exhibition, please contact Alison Ramer at email@example.com.
This project was made possible by the following organizations and individuals:
“I am Al Walajeh”
- Producer – Alison Ramer
- Assistant Producers – Ahmad Shihadeh and E.M.
- Filmmaker – Hamoudi Shehada
- Photographer – Stephen Jeter
- Curatorial – Nancy Salsa Taweel