Ahlam Shibli احلام شبلي

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© Ahlam Shibli


Palestine, 2011–12
series of 68 photographs, 38 x 57 cm; 57 x 38 cm; 66.7 x 100 cm; 100 x 66.7 cm; 100 x 150 cm, chromogenic prints

I shall not return until I plant my paradise on earth or else reap a paradise from the sky or die or we all die together.
Ghassan Kanafani

This work is based on the demand for recognition that became apparent with the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against the colonial power in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The Second Intifada lasted from 2000 to 2005 and claimed several thousand deaths on the Palestinian side.

Death exhibits some of the ways in which the ones who are absent become present again — "represented": Palestinian fighters, who fell in the course of their armed resistance against the Israeli incursions, and victims of the Israeli military killed under different circumstances (Shaheed and Shaheeda); militants who carried out attacks which they knew would lead to their death, among them the men and women who detonated explosives on their own bodies to assassinate Israelis (Istishhadi and Istishhadiya), and the prisoners. The former are dead, the latter are alive, jailed for a large part if not the rest of their lives.

The representations designate any person who lost his or her life as a result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine: a martyr.

Death focuses on a limited range of means representing the martyrs and the prisoners in the closed environment of Nablus, its region, and its refugee camps: posters and occasionally graffiti in the streets; paintings, photos, posters, and other memorabilia in the homes of the martyrs' families; the graves that bear inscriptions and are sometimes ornate with pictures and items of the deceased. One supplementary element representing the prisoners are their letters and diaries—personal if one ignores the prison authority's censorship. All of these are forms of representation originated by the families, friends, and the fighters' associations.

The question of death does not belong to the dead, but to those who remain alive.
Ghassan Kanafani

This work has been co-produced with the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), the Jeu de Paume in Paris, and the Fundação de Serralves-Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Porto.