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Blog - Rachel Gadsden

The last morning of the residency in Ramallah

Photograph of rooftops

Al Amara. Photo © Rachel Gadsden

The group continued working up to the last minute. A strong initial body of work has already been produced, and powerful relationships forged.  Rachel made sure that all the artists have a good supply of materials to help them through creating art into the autumn.  And we said goodbye, reluctantly, to Star Mountain. The capabilities of social networking will mean that the collaboration will remain constantly in touch. Ultimately the residency was about cultivating hope – not only for the project but also for the individuals through creativity. Art serves as an essential channel for the hardships and emotions that all the artists experience daily.

We moved to the Red Crescent in Ramallah for a few days, to have further editing meetings with the Palestinian Young filmmakers, to meet with Director General of the Palestine Museum, Dr. Mahmoud Hawari, and to complete administrative work.

The Red Crescent building stretches high into the Ramallah sky, and from their 10th floor vantage point, one is able to hear and see the comings and goings of the Al Am’ari refugee camp (one of 27 in Palestine) that stretches out far below. The Al Am’ari camp has 10,500 approx.-registered refugees and was established in 1949 on 90 dunums within the municipal boundaries of Al-Bireh.

By 1957, all tents in the camp were replaced with cement block shelters. Like most of the West Bank camps, Amari suffers from overcrowding, poor sewerage and water networks. The refugee camp has two schools, the boy’s school has 1250 pupils and the girl’s school has 970 pupils. In accordance with the Oslo Accords, Al Am’ari camp is located in Area A and is thus under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

As we pass by the camp we meet many young refugees, who always want to say hello and ask, “Where are you from?”. One of the very real experiences of being in the region is the limitation of movement for many of the Palestinian people, and dictated by the official documentation we have been allocated.

The artists constantly speak of the difficulties of travel and of passing through the checkpoints, and of journeys that at one time took minutes, but that have now been extended to hours by the separation Wall. This time it wasn’t possible to create with the bereaved women from Jerusalem, who are also part of the artistic collective, the Prisoner’s “Hunger Strike” thankfully came to an end, with positive negotiations just before Ramadan. We are hopeful that we will all now be reunited again, in the region in September.

Barriers are a fundamental theme and metaphor for the project, so it will be of no surprise to know that the collective have been completely inspired by Dawish’s poem:

Under Siege by Mahmoud Dawish
Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.

‘It was Paradise’ artists would like to thank everyone who has made it possible for this exciting collaboration to be realized and to begin – at this time, when there is significant tension throughout the World, this is a critical cross-cultural project, and the artists are now looking forward to the next stage, which takes place in UK in July 2017.


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