I Am Palestine

Project Overview

An art project that combines video interviews and a wooden art installation piece to provide an alternate narrative of the Palestinian people.

Identifying the Problem

“Western society carries a dehumanized view of the Palestinian people,” says Karina. “People here are told what to think about Palestinians. But they’re not hearing about Palestinians from Palestinians.” She wanted to fight this idea and construct a different narrative of Palestinian society - one that was told by the Palestinian people.

Creating A Solution

Following her Humanity in Action Fellowship, Karina worked with the International Solidarity Initiative in Bethlehem, Palestine. During her time there, she and HIA Senior Fellow Boukje Kistemaker video-recorded interviews with Palestinians, asking them two questions: "What does it mean for you to be Palestinian?" and "What is your dream for Palestine?"  Upon returning to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Karina combined these interviews into a 20 minute film. She knew she wanted to use the interviews as a way of providing the opportunity for a Western audience to learn about Palestinians from the Palestinians themselves, but was not sure how to incorporate the film into a unique project.

Karina found inspiration in the Wall that separates Israel and Palestine. During her time in Palestine, she had many opportunities to view the Palestinian side of the Wall. For many, the Wall represents oppression and separation. Yet the Wall has been re-appropriated by those who wish to change its meaning; the Palestinian people have turned the Wall into a space for art and messages of hope. Israelis have visited the Palestinian side of the Wall to contribute their own messages of hope, as have people from countries around the world.

Karina herself contributed a message of hope to the Wall, and she was struck by the powerful, emotional interaction with the structure and what it represents. That was the precise feeling she wanted to recreate in her own community.

Along with a fellow University of Pittsburgh student, Sean Neely, Karina constructed a 10 by 12 foot wall to represent the Wall separating Israel and Palestine. Karina and Sean then projected the videos onto the wall. The project was exhibited at UnSmoke Systems Gallery in Braddock, Pennsylvania. The opening night of the exhibition attracted several hundred people, one of the largest crowds the gallery had ever had. Those who came to view the project included university students and professors, high school teachers, journalists, and other members of the community of Pittsburgh. Karina was particularly pleased with the turnout, as she had specifically chosen to show her project at a gallery in a small town that has been impoverished since the collapse of the steel industry. 

Those listening to the stories of the Palestinians were not passive observers. Karina’s project encouraged observers to interact with the project by painting on the wall, which she believes pushed the local Pittsburgh community to challenge their notions of the Palestinian people. She noticed that some people viewing her project initially seemed hesitant to participate in its interactive aspect, but ended up contributing their own message of hope to the art piece. 

Karina’s Action Project was featured in The Pitt News, the daily student newspaper of the University of Pittsburgh. To view Karina's "I Am Palestine" interviews, visit the ISIBethlehem YouTube channel.

Lessons Learned

For anyone interested in starting a similar project, Karina recommends raising a small amount of money. She also stresses the importance of advertising your project if you want it to be viewed by as a large an audience as possible. The art gallery helped to promote the opening of Karina’s art piece, and Karina also distributed fliers around Pittsburgh and advertised on various web sites.

Funding

The total cost of Karina's art project was $250, which included the wood, paint, screws and a rental truck required in order to transport the art piece to and from the gallery. Karina was able to secure donations of wood and paint for the project, and she and a friend each contributed $75 of their own money for the remaining expenses. Karina used her own projector and sound system.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2011

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