The Nakbah Project:  

The process

In order to pass on the concept of the project as well as the methodology for creating the wax figure, the artist gave a six-day workshop to a team of professional artists and art students in Ramallah who subsequently passed on the methodology to youths from the ages of 14 to 18 years old in Al- Amari -Ramallah and Kalandia-Jerusalem refugee camps. 

Using the same format she then conducted a six day workshop at the Doha Centre in Bethlehem , al Hoash Gallery in Jerusalem before travelling to Jordan and working in Zarqa camp.

Having established partners in Lebanon, Shams Theatre and the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts - Al Jana, it was decided that a replica exhibit of 3,000 figures with identities would be created offering the possibility for two dual exhibits to tour globally.

Special importance has been given to extending the work in camps in the neighboring countries to ensure that dispersed people of 1948 Palestine have been fully represented.  

Workshop program

In each place the workshop began with a PowerPoint presentation showing how the concept was initiated and how the artist’s journey began. The first part of the presentation gave a brief history of a concentration camp in Poland before moving on to the Palestinian exodus of 1948, explaining how the artist arrived at the initial idea.

As the wire structure for the wax figure follows approximately anatomical proportion,the course continued with an introduction to human anatomy and how it can be related in drawing terms by focussing on the skeleton and main muscle groups. This was followed by a preparitory lesson in anylising proportion.

In order to observe the body in greater detail a series of physical exercises and games normally used by theatrical performers were undertaken for further understanding . The sculpture reveals a people who had to depart from their homes in a hurry, leaving behind loved ones, the aged and the sick, animals and pets, photographs and other fragments of their lives. Some of the figures are depicted carrying children, helping the infirm or taking the few possessions that they could handle. In order to give an essence of authenticity a series of studies were undertaken.

Through drawing and pysical practise this included observing body language and emotion, and movement. Particular attention was paid to Palestinian period costume 1930 to 1940’s through photographic images and books analysing the clothes that were worn by the people in 1948.

The students whose families were displaced were asked to interview their relatives about their departure.

Once the appropriate skills had been developed the participants created their own wire and tissue figure. They not only made a figure that related to the generation of their families affected by the Nakbah, but also made figures that relaed to the testimonial papers collected from across the region. Each figure therefore has a name, place of origin on the pre 1948 map and in some cases a written testimony.  

Testimonials

An important part of the process involved collecting the identities of individuals via the younger generation. The emphasis was given to the emotional factor, offering a last chance for the younger generation to engage with the fading memory from an older dying generation.

All questions asked related to that moment of departure and the first day of being a refugee. 

Some examples:

If possible describe the clothes that were worn or might have been worn at the time of departure.

Did you hear of a neighbouring massacre and how did this affect your decission to leave?

What possessions were you able to take ?

Where did you spend your first night?

The artist also filmed a series of short interviews with a number of first witnesses of 1948. On occasions the grandchild or younger relative were present.

The audio clips from the interviews have been used to form a sound installation of layered voices to accompany the wax figures.

The sound sculpture relates the names and identities, their place of origin, and brief memories –individual oral histories which combine to recall the collective history of the Palestinians.

The Commemoration

“The cleansing of Palestine remains the primary objective of plan Dalet.” David Ben Gurion May 1948

“ We created terror among the Arabs and all the villages around. In one blow, we changed the strategic situation.” Menachem Begin

By May 1948 Great Britain officially declared the end of British Mandate rule in Palestine . On that same day Zionist leaders declared that the state of Israel was born.

By that same month Zionist forces had already captured substantial portions of Palestine outside of the UN - defined Jewish state, and approximately 750,000 Palestinians had been expelled from their homes in what became Israel .

The theme of Nakbah (The Catastrophe) when over three quarter of a million people had to flee their land out of sheer terror and fear, is reflected in several ways in an artistic exploration of the human experience and emotion. The result forms a commemorative artwork to mark the 60th year of the events of 1948, and the consequences that continue to affect the lives of millions, shaping the social and political framework of the Middle East still today

 

CALENDAR OF EXHIBITIONS:

Premier opening in Jerusalem on May 15th 2008 at al Hoash Gallery at 19:30

Al Mahatta Gallery – Ramallah, Palestine on August 2008 

Edinburgh Festival – Edinburgh, UK on July 30th – August 18th 2008 

Shams Theatre – Beirut , Lebanon on September 2008

Darat Al Funoun – Amman, Jordan on November 2008