Moniek Driesse is a research based designer in arts and architecture. She considers art and design as powerful tools to catalyze dialogue on political, social and cultural issues. From her interest in working at the boundaries of disciplines, she works in diverse projects, increasingly focused on artistic practice and architecture in contexts of conflict, and the development of tools for dialogue and activism. Within those (self initiated) projects she utilizes design, curating, publishing and education, to create a cohesive practice that connects arts, politics, (social) science and daily reality. Therefore she collaborates with fellow professionals, foundations, cultural institutions, universities, and, most of all, the potential users. Their stories, questions, wishes and needs are the main source of inspiration; the reality to act upon.
David Juan Ortiz is Spanish designer who studied at the in the Think Tank for Visual Strategies masters program of the Sandberg Institute. He works with video and publications. Currently, he is living and working between Amsterdam and Beirut.
Shaimaa Hassanein is an artist and designer from Gaza, graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts in 2016, interested in drawing portraiture and Model, work with children and youth in art and murals painting workshops.
Mohamed is an artist and designer born in Gaza in 1983, working in art and crafts especially manuscripts and woodwork. and also running art workshops with the kids. Interested in producing art pieces of used materials and turn them into useful and meaningful pieces.
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.
As a half Palestinian half Czech designer, I always saw my point of view in design of taking the traditional Palestinian heritage and presenting it in a new “European” way. My aesthetic has always driven me to plunge into designs incorporating symbols typical of Palestine or calligraphy. When I was invited to take part on this project I had no idea what I was going to do, and I enjoyed brainstorming and hanging out with the various designers; seeing my native city Bethlehem through their eyes. My biggest realization was that as much as I looked through my European part upon my Palestinian heritage and surrounding I would never be able to see what they saw —despite the fact that I lived abroad for more than 10 years. This realization drove me to design what I call the “identity collection” or series, which start from a finger print telling the story of each Palestinian carrying a hawwyieh (Palestinian ID card) having to pass the checkpoint, to olive wood heel platform sandals decorated with the Palestinian kuffiyeh, and beautiful colorful happy mosaic and clay map of Palestine rings. All in referral to how this journey helped me realize that I will always see Palestine, and always refer to it in my work, through my Palestinian eyes, because that is who I am, that is my identity.
I am very grateful for all the people whom I met throughout this journey, many have been so helpful and patient with me and taught me new things, which helped my ideas and work come to life. Some of the artisans were a revelation to me, as I stumbled upon them like upon a treasure chest in a desert. I was so inspired by the many personalities and stories I have encountered in those short two weeks, and I loved every bit of it. The workshop has inspired me to do so much more and work with new materials, as well as taken me to far away cities in Palestine like Qalqilya and Tulkarem —which are hard for me to reach otherwise.
I hope this project will bring a lot of opportunities to the local artisans we worked with, as they work hard every day and are undervalued. I am stunned at their craftsmanship and modesty and hope that this is only the beginning of a great revolution on the local handmade goods market!
Aya Abu Ghazaleh received her bachelor's degree in visual arts from The University of Jordan in 2013 with honor.
She has participated in a number of group exhibitions in: Amman design Week, I:OArt Residence Bahçecik Izmit, Turkey, Palestinian art court/ Jerusalem , Naila gallery/ Ryiadah, Cairo-Amman, Bank Gallery, The Spring Sessions, Fondazione Cini/ Venice, The Lab/ DaratAlfunon, University of Jordan Library, Nabad Gallery, The Studio.