Donna Verheijden is a Dutch designer based in Amsterdam who studied at the Sandberg Instituut. Her work is undeniably iconic - her videos feature mashups of vintage hollywood end-credits, moments of incredible cinematographic choreography, universally recognizable found footage and self-shot images of everyday life. An interesting intersection of banality and politics, between universal imagery and absolute specificity. In collaboration with Martina Petrelli she filmed a documentary, The House of the Eyes, in the West Bank during the fist Palestinian Art biennale which also coincided with the latest attacks in Gaza.
Mohammad Saleh is currently a Jerusalem based ecological space designer and green activist. He has a degree in Psychology, and another in Musicology. He has been engaged in the cultural and art sector of Palestine for several years, working at the Palestinian Art Court, followed by works in visual production related to Palestinian life. In recent years Mohammed has been leading an ecological and sustainable life and since 2015 he has been professionally designing sustainable and green spaces.
"Since the very first moment of us working together, I have been learning about my country in a totally different, positive and hopeful way. Living and working in Palestine is constantly being confronted with a harsh reality and a negative context. DDFP brings something positive out of a negative thing. The problems, the occupation and the constant present violent atmosphere are used as sources for inspiration. Now we can spread our stories using creative, productive and positive thinking.
The market is indeed flooded with products from China and Israel, and because easy consumerism is more appealing, most people don’t think that they can actually do what they want themselves. Our artisans are also caught up in this pattern of consumerism and tend to only produce what the market wants, over and over again.
To me the beauty of DDFP lies in the fact that in a very perceptive way they managed to harvest the resources that were already here in my country. They looked at the existing networks; they looked for people who already had their own ideas and for artisans with amazing abilities. This meant that they didn’t have to train people, neither to educate designers or to make design. They only needed to say that collaborating was important and that it was possible. They did make all of the participating local designers look totally different at these crafts studios. Before, when we past by an artisans’ shop, we perceived it as exotic and on rare occasions we would take a photo of it. But the idea never came to our mind to show any interest in what that man was doing. Let alone that we could imagine a possible collaboration.
There is indeed the potential for DDFP to become an important economical factor, but this is not the case yet. We will definitely need a couple of more years before we will be able to start investing in local productions from the profits that we can make from the sales. For the moment this is our Achilles heel. We often lack the funds to pay for new productions, so we need to look for investment money in different ways, which can be quite challenging.
Our identity is not defined in a positive way. We are getting constantly accused and we are seen as a bad nation. By joining DDFP, I found a unique opportunity to tell my own story and to make an object that performs that story. So when people are buying it, they indicate that they believe in your story. This empowers the feeling that I, that we can. That it is possible."(From Kurt Vanbelleghem interview, Can one really benefit from a social design project, or is it just another spin at the wheel?)
When a European design student wants to experience authentic night out in Ramallah or in Bethlehem, there are two basic options: one can ask a local to recommend a Palestinian restaurant, order hummus, falafels, shawarma, turkish salad and other local dishes and drink freshly squeezed juice or local Taybeh beer. Or, one can go to one of the restaurants serving non-Palestinian food, drink a Carlsberg or a Coke while a mix of local and western pop-music is playing in the background.
While the former option might offer an opportunity to taste the traditional cuisine, it doesn’t mean that the latter would be anyhow less genuine or ‘real’. Nor that one or the other would authentic for all for the same reasons. Or that authenticity would be anyhow objective. So, to be able to conscious about what’s behind this decision, I believe it’s important —at least for me— to examine and open up the notion of authenticity a little bit. On Saturday morning, while one part of the group went to Northern parts of Palestine to see the Qalandiya zoo, I decided to spend the morning walking in the old part of Bethlehem. I came across this arabic market not far from the main square; just a narrow alley and stairs left from the main/oldest street of the city. Narrow alleys with tarps hanging above to provide a bit of shade were crowded already in the morning. Fruit and vegetable stalls, spices, first- and second hand clothing, household stuff, electronics and plastic, basically everything is sold here. Already from far away you could see that most of the things were made in China. The fruits and vegetables however, without labels, rather ripe and unperfect, were certainly cultivated not too far away from here.
If one thinks authenticity as something geographical, something related to soil and the place, the fruits and vegetables in this market had a stronger aura of authenticity than the almost universal made-in-China stuff (it’s more authentic to eat hummus in the middle east than it is in Europe). But at the same time it’s at least as authentic to see Chinese products in the Middle East as it is in Europe.
Later in Ramallah, when the European design student decides to go for a drink to a clean and trendy Mexican restaurant or to hyped Octoberfest in newly opened five star Mövenpick Hotel (or both!), the authenticity is rather cultural. And cultures change. It’s an experience about a moment, people and the global cultural environment. And floating in the Dead sea in lotus position the day after, the experience is again all about the exceptional environment: full-body mud masks and the sea and western pop-music and Nestle ice cream.
Rudy J. Luijters is a Dutch artist and beekeeper living and working in Brussels and Gouvy, Belgium. His work consistently attests to a strongly analytical (phenomenological) and conceptual approach. Research into cultural signs in the broadest sense of the word is an essential part of his work and also its goal at times.
Ibrahim Muhtadi is a Palestinian architect living in Gaza. Being an architect has given him the opportunity to both observe and practice the principles of art and design, and leading naturally to the pursuit of design work outside architecture. He has many interests in the home accessories design, Arabic calligraphy design, graphic design and jewelry design. Muhtadi inspired by the authenticity and the beauty of the Arabic Calligraphy. His talent and passion for creative expression has led him to shift his design skills from the sketches on the paper to the unique and original pieces of jewellery and arts.
Ayed Arafah was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Dheisheh refugee camp. Nowadays, he works and lives in Ramallah. He has a BA degree in contemporary visual art from The International Academy of Art and a BA in social work from Al Quds Open University. Combining classic and contemporary media, he explores the conceptual image that aims to motivate a better understanding about the self (my self and others) in relation with society’s issues related to politics, culture and economics. His aim is to engage with different levels of society.