Shams: Integrating a new approach to designInes Marques
Raed Shams: Integrating a new approach to design in our daily life is an achievement
An interview with Raed Shams, Disarming Design Financial Manager since 2017, by Inês Marques
IM: Can you please introduce yourself and what it consists your role in DDFP team?
RS: My name is Raed Shams, I live in Ramallah and am originally from Hebron.I studied architecture and theatre. Within Disarming Design I mainly work as a financial manager but I also assist in networking, fundraising and finding new opportunities for the organisation. Additionally, I work in sustainable development projects for international organisations, and I have been working in youth empowerment campaigns and projects all over Palestine, involved in art, music and theatre.
What made you be interested in Disarming Design work?
I was invited in 2016 to participate in a workshop by Disarming Design in collaboration with the municipality of Ramallah. This workshop was addressing Palestinian designers to develop prototypes for new innovative products. This was the first time that I was introduced to the project. After participating in the workshop I became involved in other activities, such as the coffee talks where I gave a lecture about the relationship between art and resistance, and soon I was part of the organisation as a team member. This was really one of the good things that happened in 2017, that I never thought that would happen before.
What moved you to join the team?
I was interested in what Disarming Design is doing. From the first moment I knew that this organisation is ideal for designers in Palestine, in the way that they facilitate the connection with local artisans though narratives of daily life. Representing incidents happening on a regular basis, through the stories products can tell. It’s really a great idea of how to show Palestinian reality on a human perspective. The first time I met the founder, Annelys de Vet, I remember we had a long conversation about what Disarming Design could be in the future. I believed this organisation has the potential to be some kind of Academy. Not only do they need to look for designers and help them enhance their abilities, but also they can spread awareness of how to respect daily facts in their work and produce pieces of design that can be also usable, transmitting their message outside Palestine. That’s why I was so interested in the project, its future and also the way that this project can be involved in the Palestinian community.
Can you explain in more detail the concept of Disarming Design as an Academy?
I’m enthusiastic to think of how can we grow by what we really desire the project to be. I want to see us in a space with multiple functions, having a room where people can meet and talk about the products produced in Palestine, train up people who have the idea but don’t have the ability to develop it, and then to find a studio where we can have a workshop with proper tools that is open to all to use. This workshop could consist in all kinds of equipment like carpentry and sawing machines. All in one space, so that people can come and use it or rent it in order to develop their designs or to know how this can be done.
What do you think Disarming Design means for designers in Palestine?
Well I can give you examples of designers that have a specific idea about a product but don’t know how to bring this idea to life by producing it. At the same time, you have artisans that have the ability to do that but don’t always have the concept behind it. Both of them could make a great unit, completing each other on exactly what they want to do, to bring out the concept of the design and craft itself. So it is not only about helping people produce their products, but it’s about education, knowing the culture of Palestine and then to develop products out of this knowledge. For the international designers who participated in the workshop in Ramallah, they mingled and learned a lot about how people here negotiate, what they eat and drink, how they live and think, where they dispose their waste, in short whatever we do, other’s have to see it.
Do you think that the international and the local community perceive Disarming Design in the same way?
We had a lot of people getting their souvenirs for Christmas by buying our products. That is fantastic because of the impact of those products. But I can understand that in Palestine the markets work differently because the narratives of the products are daily reality for us, while internationally it has another value. Disarming Design is now planning to expand and systemize the pillars of the organization. We will develop more the educational impact of the whole idea and invest in the Palestinian community of designers.Disarming Design is a pioneer in what it is doing. We use design for a reason that is beyond itself. It’s connecting a new generation to innovate design thinking. Even though Palestine is full of different types of traditional design, a discourse on contemporary design is not yet so present. So integrating a new approach to design in our daily life is an achievement.
Can you please describe the connection between art and resistance in Palestine?
Graffiti for example, is a ‘global’ form of expression, but in Palestine it is a daily life art. People were actually announcing strikes using graffiti; they were pushing people to participate in protests and in the resistance by drawing graffiti. This is not a matter of politics because I’m not just talking about the occupation but also for example, about the workers unions or the land day. Another example is wood souvenirs. It’s almost holy for Palestinians to use olive wood because it isn’t just wood, it is part of the land, it’s a symbol of existence and shows how the roots are so deep and how the leaves are living for thousands of years. Making objects with olive wood embodies this meaning.
Disarming Design is giving new symbols of resistance in Palestine, what do you think about this?
What is the impact of resistance? Why do people resist? Is it because people want to revive, to keep living the way that they want to keep living? Do they want to protect their heritage, their culture and their identity? What is to resist from what is coming from outside and wants to remove, to erase this kind of identity? This is the resistance in the general sense, but Disarming Design is resisting through design. The products themselves are keeping and reviving the stories of Palestinians along with the culture, heritage and other aspects related to daily life by some products that are designed here and sold all over the world. This is a poetic form of resistance.You can have stories being told by the products itself and you understand them by using it. Its not only a piece of wood, but actually a piece that tells a story wherever it goes, reminding people that the Palestinians are normal human beings that are normally living like other human beings, for instance in Belgium and The Netherlands. They are human beings looking for a decent life. Disarming Design is taking those stories and turning them into products and giving them a space to be told. This is part of resistance, part of reflecting the Palestinian identity through products.
(Interview by Inês Marques, 2018)