‘The Power of Culture’ is a product of young Palestinians’ reflections upon life in a refugee camp. This is the 1st edition of a series of photography publications.
When we first started running the rights-based photography programme at Lajee Center we were operating with a creative model that has been used in various political situations around the world. Since we started the photography projects in 2005, our methods developed and we no longer run only with the method of ‘kids with cameras’ projects. Instead, with the generous ongoing support of the HOPING Foundation, Lajee Arts & Media Unit, which is run by former participants in our early projects, is today a sustainable project implementing continuing programs.
The four young artists, (Shoroq Asad, Miras al-Azzeh, Mohammed al-Azza and Kholoud Ajarma), featured within this book all began photography projects at Lajee several years ago – three of the four artists participated in Lajee’s first projects in 2005. Though personal practice and intensive photography courses, the artists have developed their abilities in order to their work but also to articulate their individual creative voices as well as their collective voice.
This book includes a selection of work from two long-term projects produced by each artist over the course of two years. All of the young artists, aged between 17-25 years old, are now also implementing projects with local children in order to continue the development of Lajee’s model and help support the next generation of photographers. All of the artists have had international photographic exhibitions, and their works have been acknowledged in either national or international competitions. The works of the participants of Lajee Center’s Arts & Media Unit is continuing to be exhibited around the globe; more than thirty international shows have now been implemented across four continents.
How does a child reconcile a home community that is occupied by a foreign army, but that is also the place she knows best in the world, the place where she celebrates holidays, plays with her cousins, and enjoys her favorite meals? In Aida Refugee Camp, the Arabic letter of ghayn stands for ghaseel, the laundry hanging outside to dry and ghuyuum, the clouds above, but it also stands for ghaz, tear gas, and ghaza, Gaza.
Aida Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem is home to about 5000 Palestinians from 27 villages depopulated by Zionist armies in 1948. Lajee Center, a community-based organization established in 2000 to serve the youth of Aida, is on the edge of the camp, just 100 meters from an Israeli army base and the separation wall. During the summer of 2014, children of Aidagathered at Lajee Center, led by Kifah Ajarma and Amahl Bishara, to brainstorm objects and ideas relevant to the camp that started with each letter of the Arabic alphabet. Then, they illustrated the book together through collage art. The result is a bi-lingual children’s book made by children of Aida Refugee Camp for people of all ages (5-105) to learn about everyday life in a Palestinian refugee camp. Read it and you will pick up some Arabic, too!
The Boy and the Wall (2005)is a bilingual children’s book that tells the story of a Palestinian refugee boy who loves to play soccer, find turtles, and pick flowers. But the joy of being a child is overshadowed by the huge wall being built through his land. What can a little boy do to escape the wall? Turn into a great fig tree whose roots will break the wall? Dance until the wall crumbles?
The Boy and the Wallis a story about how the separation wall has affected the lives of the people living in Aida Refugee Camp and an imaginative reflection of a child’s response to the wall.About 5000 Palestinian refugees live in Aida, near the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank. More than half of the residents of the Aida are children. Their families have been living in the camp since they were pushed out of their villages when the state of Israel was created in 1948. The refugees are still not allowed to return to their lands. In 2004, Israel began building the concrete wall only a few meters from the houses of the camp. The wall intensified Israel’s military presence in the camp and exacerbated already high levels of unemployment. The Boy and the Wall,written by Amahl Bishara and illustrated with collages made by Lajee youth, is the winner of the Psychologists for Social Responsibility’s Josephine “Scout” Wollman Fuller Award, 2008.