NABLUS, Nov 14 (JMCC) - Captured in time-worn sepia, the merry-go-round swoops past the camera lens as the wind ruffled the headscarves of the three girls aboard. Across the room, a little girl splashed in grey-scale rain puddles in the street, her image fuzzy in the moving shot. Welcome to the West Bank
city of Nablus
, as seen through youths’ photography.
“Suwarna”, the Arabic word for “our pictures”, is an exhibition of images captured by the participants of a children's photography project hosted by Tomorrow’s Youth Organisation, a Nablus-based non-governmental organization. The exhibit has toured the West Bank within the last week with showings in Nablus, Ramallah
and at the World Education Forum.
“The intention in holding the exhibition is to build a bridge to the outside world,” said organizer Doris Carrion. “We would like an outside audience to have a vision and understanding of children in Nablus.”
The children who participated in the project, ranging between the ages of 10 to 16 years, came from the three refugee camps in Nablus – Balata, Askar and Al-Ayn.
These crowded, poor areas have seen some of the most intense fighting, particularly during the second intifada
in 2002. For a long while, Israeli military night raids or attacks on the camps were frequent.
“There is a psychological aspect to the project,” said Carrion. “Many of the children and their families are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome from the violence they have witnessed, or stress from the high unemployment that exists.”
TYO aims to provide emotional support to these families through non-formal education and recreational activities.
For Triple Exposure, the photography project behind the exhibit, children from TYO were given cameras to take home. They were free to photograph as they pleased.
On the white walls of an old Ottoman building in Ramallah’s old city, the selection of the photograph’s taken during the year includes the artistic close-up of a glowing lantern, images of children in class or in the playground, the characterful weathered complexion of an old Palestinian man, snapshots of refugee camps and much more.
“The fact that few of the photos are related to the occupation was not a choice of mine,” says Miss Carrion. “They are fond of taking photos of photos of families who have died as a result of the occupation or martyr posters that are dotted around Nablus. But the majority will show the audience their daily lives.”
“It is interesting to see what the children have chosen to photograph, it shows the regular life of these children,” says Krystina Tillova, a visitor browsing over the exhibit. Also at the exhibit was a short film created by the children called “The Furthest Journey”, a mix of home-video acting and animation inspired by the drawings of the children. It depicts the fictional endeavor of three Nabulsi children to reach the Al-Aqsa mosque.
After a long journey, they reach the barrier that separates Israel
from the West Bank. With imaginative help from fellow Palestinians – including the use of doctor’s stethoscope as a climbing rope - they climb the wall.
“I like it because it tells people outside of Palestine that we are good people,” said 14 year old Mujahid, who took part in making the movie. “It helps to show that we are not terrorists.”
Mujahid has never been to Jerusalem. As a young male Palestinian, it is especially difficult to get the required permit. “They think that we will cause trouble,” he said, referring to the Israeli authority that dispenses the permits.
“I focused on Israel-Palestine issues to highlight how bad it makes me feel. If I wanted I could make a happy story. But I would rather show people how much I want the freedom I don’t feel I have,” he said.
The project has been a steep learning curve for the participants, according to Carrion. “Triple Exposure aims to provide children with the means of expressing themselves and to help them think more analytically about their futures,” Carrion said. “We don’t want to focus on the technical detail of photography, but on creative thinking; how to convey information and tell a story through a still photo.”
Carrion said she has noticed a remarkable change in the 50 children that have participated in the project thus far. “Over the year, I have seen a change in them – they have grasped concepts of photography, composition light and colour. They are increasingly creative and through learning new forms of observation they are gaining the ability to think analytically.”