forumZFD is convinced that media and arts are powerful tools for social change. Under this premise, we want to support civil society actors to use media and arts as a platform for self-representation and self-expression. This year, we worked with several artists from the Palestinian city of Jenin to organize the first Modern Art Exhibition in the northern West Bank. The exhibition, which opened on 8 August 2019, not only commemorated the opening of Fragments Theater’s new space, it also built bridges between Jenin refugee camp and Jenin city, between more traditional and more alternative segments of Jenini society and between Jenin and other parts of Palestine. Meet some of the local artists who made this possible and read more about their take on art as a tool for social change:
My name is Mustafa, I am 33 years old and I was born and raised in Jenin city. I am the Artistic Director of Fragments Theater. I am also a filmmaker and video artist. Being an artist for me is a need more than a luxury. In another place I would be working something else… But being here, art is what connects us to life, it gives us hope and that is the most important thing we need at the moment. Through the art I want people to feel rather than to learn. I want them to feel because sometimes talking cannot solve conflict. I wish there was more understanding from the community for artists and their way of working. I know it’s hard to accept the changes that artists bring, but people need to see the importance of art, especially in the young generation, they need art to escape their confusion. Artists have a lot of fears, but they have their art to show them, to grow from them. All of these artists have been living under difficult circumstances but in this exhibition, they have total freedom. They can communicate with their community through a piece of art. I hope that through the exhibition people from Jenin will get hope for the city. At the same time, I hope people from the outside will come and learn that this city has so much potential for using art as a tool for change in the future.
My name is Rawand Arqawi, I am from Jenin, I was born and raised here, and I am the founder of Frgaments Theater and coordinate our work and the relations we have to the community. Everyone in Jenin knows theater and cinema but they don't think about paintings, installations and video art. I discovered that these artforms are very important, we shouldn't focus only on one artform, there are no limits in art, just like the sea has no limits. Through the project I met lots of artists who are doing great work, but no one knows about them. We need exhibitions to present them to the community and to the world. The exhibition can be a model for the people to see what art can do, that we can change Jenin in a good way.
I am Yafa Atif from Jenin. I am a university lecturer and I work with video arts, photography, filmmaking and contemporary modern art. What does being an artist mean to me? Actually, I feel I still need more time to see myself as an artist, but I already see art as the best way to express myself. Art can be understood in different ways by different people, it does not need to be explained, it can be symbolic. I think that foreigners have a lot of stereotypical views about Arab countries. Palestinians, in particular, are constantly associated with war, oppression and destruction. Jenin is seen as an uncivilized place. In my art, I want to show that Jenin is improving and progressing. Nevertheless, art is still somewhat neglected in Jenin. I hope that step by step our experiences and ideas will grow.
I am Jawad Shalabi from Jenin. I am 23 years old and I am a stand-up comedian. I first started stand-up comedy when I suffered from severe depression. People encouraged me to use my sense of humor in order to do something good and useful for me and others. At first, I rejected the idea and felt that I couldn’t move from tragedy into comedy, to move from black to white. But people continued to encourage me…. so I started. I explore the problems with my crutches, my house and the environment I live in. I began telling people what was happening to me in a funny way. I did not want them to be sad, on the contrary, I want them to be happy and feel that things are fine. My disease was the most sensitive thing for me. I was only able to talk about it through comedy. I remember talking about my crutches, I called it Samira. Now, no one calls them crutches, they all call them by her real name: Samira. It took me a long time to find people who are interested in comedy here in Jenin. There's no comedy club, there are no professional trainers in that field. But I needed this kind of art because it was the only way to express myself. Today, I am working with Fragments Theater. Through my work, I am developing myself and my talent. I still dream that this art will become well-known and respected and people here stop seeing comedy as a foolish art. I hope one day all the people in Jenin will become part of a comedy club. I hope one day we will be able to present our performances and shows on the street to all people.
My name is Ranin Sahuri, I am twenty years old and I am working with the Fragment theater in Jenin. I am very fascinated by my own personality, my character and my charisma. I trust myself even though I am suffering from many health issues. In the photos for the exhibition I express how it is to suffer from my disease. I am very proud to be an artist. I believe that nothing is impossible. I wish everyone who has talent will not give up until their dream comes true. I will continue working on myself to reach the place and the position I am dreaming about.
About Fragments Theater: Fragments Theater is a newly formed art collective in the old city of Jenin. At their center, they offer local artists a refuge where they can exchange ideas, implement projects and use art as a tool for social change. Just like the name suggests, Fragments is about overcoming Fragmentation by connecting Jenini artists which each other, with the local community, with other art scenes in Palestine and with the rest of the world.