Monday, June 28, 2010

The Tamkeen Workshops

As noted earlier, the generous Ford Foundation grant in 1998 enabled Al-Ma’mal to start up and had covered the first two years of its activities. Subsequent grants from Ford followed and the Foundation remains one of Al-Ma’mal’s strongest sponsors to this day.

Another longstanding relationship is with the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem, a supporter from the very early days when Anadiel and the French Cultural Centre were neighbours on Salahuddin. Such cooperation and practical support from foreign consulates and cultural centres in Jerusalem has been a consistent feature in the life of both Anadiel and Al-Ma’mal. In the early 2000s in particular, funding was mostly secured in the form of small development grants or from cultural cooperation budgets. These included grants from the Society for Austro-Arab Relations (SAAR), World Vision and the European Commission. Although these could not provide for the scope of activities that bodies such as Ford could enable, they covered almost all of the artist-in residence workshops and exhibitions between 2000 and 2002, and also contributed to essential running costs. A relationship established with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) at this time also continued for several years. In 2002, however, an opportunity arose to submit a proposal for another major injection of workshop funding:

After Bethlehem 2000 I quit the arts sector for a while and got my next job at USAID. Eventually in 2002 I went to London to do my masters but during this time I wrote a funding proposal which Jack submitted to Tamkeen, a development programme working under the USAID umbrella. This had no direct connection to my job but it was useful because I understood through working there exactly what Tamkeen and USAID wanted from this project and it fitted exactly with what Al Ma'mal could do. (Samar Martha, 2010)
This made a new series of workshops both feasible and timely and meant that they could be properly planned incorporating all the experience from the workshops undertaken in the first four years. It also meant that specific artist-tutors could be employed on a longer term basis than residency artists and thus develop in-house expertise and an evolving teaching programme.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All Change - Jawad Al-Malhi and Tina Sherwell 2001 - 2002

When assessing the results of the first three years of workshops, it was evident that there needed to be a greater range of learning activities, more focus on group interaction and wider participation. As a consequence Al-Ma’mal decided to diversify and expand the workshops to encompass various forms of visual art. The possibilities included experimentation in drawing, painting, collage, clay, installation, and video as well as photography. Artists employed to design and deliver the workshops were encouraged to utilize whatever approach, medium and technique they thought would best serve the purpose, while also following Al-Ma’mal’s overall objectives.

As a consequence four new workshops were launched in 2001 with two new partners: the Spafford Children’s Centre and the Burj Al-Laqlaq centre. All four workshops were conducted by Palestinian Artist Jawad Al-Malhi and his wife, British artist, writer and educator Dr. Tina Sherwell.

Jawad al Malhi had begun painting in the late 80s and exhibited at Anadiel in 1994. He was close to the developments that took place in those early days and his comments about that time echo observations made by others:

In those days there were few Palestinian artists and those there were tended to be ‘state ‘artists whose work was entirely about the political cause. Politics was the reason not the art. So when Jack first talked about opening Anadiel I thought it was a crazy idea. However, when artists from outside like Mona [Hatoum], Samir [Srouji] and Nasser [Soumi] came it was fantastic. As an artist on the ground I felt that politics was not our job anymore. I was starting to focus on concepts and at that time, and with that kind of input, you felt free.

Al-Malhi and Sherwell took a completely different approach to the workshops based on the assumption that an artist has very different skills to a teacher thus the interaction with the children should be more organic than formally instructional.

Rather than ‘teaching’ as such, we saw it as artists working with children in order to get them to explore their own creativity - more explaining and facilitating than teaching.

The workshops took place over a longer period so that skills could be built up gradually which was also intended to create deeper bonds within the groups themselves:

As well as the art the point was to bring the different communities in Jerusalem into one place, so we were trying to create a social atmosphere and actually build up commonalities and cohesion among the youth in the communities. They built a very strong relationship between each other and they spent a lot of time together afterwards. The workshops always spilled over into social time.

The purpose was also psychological. Throughout the West Bank the following year, the workshops became the only outlet for children to process some of the damage done by the full scale military attacks of 2002. They were art and sculpture workshops and Al-Malhi was very clear about the purpose of them all:

To me it was to help them build a dream and in some cases to help them overcome specific psychological problems connected to the conflict. For example we did a travelling workshop which went to Jenin and Nablus and places affected by aerial attacks called ‘The Dream of Flying’ and this was to make them look up and give them confidence in the sky again. We made kites and set them flying one every minute. Taysir Bataniji did this is Gaza too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Luc Chery 2000 – 2003

In 2000 I took my son to the photography school in Arles where I met Luc Chery who was to become my husband in 2002. He came to Palestine and did projects with Al-Quds University, Bethlehem University and Al-Ma’mal (Huda Imam, Jerusalem April 2010)
Chery was involved with Al-Ma’mal for several years and conducted two workshops as well as presenting his own photography and exhibition projects:
The first workshop I did (in July 2001) was called "Jerusalem Ma Ville" and was conducted with Al-Quds University students in cooperation with the French Consulate and Al-Ma'mal. The aim was to lead students to a renewed appreciation of their city beyond the usual evidence on the surface.
Unfortunately no images of this project are currently available but in a statement written at the time Luc Chery wrote:
This photographic work was accomplished between September 2000 and May 2001, a date which marked the beginning of a new era of uncertainty and conflict: the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada. Although within the heart of a conflict, this collection does not show any picture of war or confrontation, however, the day to day life, attitudes and expressions unveil tension and darkness. The images of architecture we see tend to point to an unrelenting process of destruction/reconstruction or perhaps re-composition. So many buildings are themselves affected by questions of identity through patches, scars, emptiness and additions all strongly marking the uncertainty and fragility of any possible definition of the place (From exhibition statement, 2001).
Chery’s workshop at Bethlehem University in 2002 introduced young Palestinians to a wide variety of materials within the context of contemporary art, particularly the creative possibilities of working with recycled materials. This was consistent with Al-Ma’mal’s shift in focus for workshop content that had occurred in 2001 following an assessment of workshop results over the first few years.
Here, the aim was to introduce new relationships with scraps and material, alteration and destruction and then to rebuild autonomous artworks out of this process (Luc Chery, June 2010).

Objects and materials were collected from domestic and industrial waste according to their ‘expressive uniqueness’ and there were conceptual echoes of Chery’s previous workshop project:
Cracks and rips mark their status as objects that have been tossed about, split up and marginalized. Such scattered fragments can be staged in devices enabling interplay of shapes and allotting them a renewed credit. When rearranged, they become small autonomous worlds endowed with impermanence and flexibility. As they are assembled, the scraps and fragments interact in floating layers and suspensions, in crushed-down volumes, in shadows and transparencies where they find a new inscription, a new belonging (From workshop proposal, 2002).  


As Al-Ma’mal’s artist-in-residence in 2003 Chery presented a two-part exhibition called Les Habitats-Ode to the Refugee Camps. One series of photographs showed structures in Gaza’s refugee camps enclosed by cloth or plastic sheeting. A parallel series showed spaces in Bordeaux that had been specially constructed by Chery from discarded plastic, fabric and furniture. When the images were juxtaposed it was sometimes hard to differentiate between the two.

The project not only conveyed a sense of the confinement in the enclosed spaces of the refugee camps but also gave an empathetic picture of a people surviving by converting waste into a priceless commodity that provides shelter.



Luc Chery Website