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explored many aspects of the Palestinian experience: in her series Trackers (2005), Arab Al-Sbaih (2007) and Death (2011–12). A recent project, Ramallah Archive (2014), explored a commercial portrait photographer’s legacy in the form of hundreds of photographic negatives, combining his images from an earlier time with her own contemporary ones of the West Bank city. Shuruq Harb has used both her own photographic images and the life and circulation of images in the public domain to tell alternative stories. Distributed in the form of a limited edition book, her The Keeper project (2012) relates an encounter with a young Ramallah street vendor selling images of politicians, revolutionary heroes, cultural icons and film stars culled from the internet. Yazan Khalili, on the other hand, in On Love and Other Landscapes from 2011 (a “film in the format of a book” with 91 still images) appears to tell the story of a love affair against the background of an emotionally loaded landscape that is as much part of the story, if not the main protagonist. As Camus suggests, we must imagine Sisyphus happy in his repetitive task. Imaginative play and adventures, as well as humour and irony, can be effective mechanisms in coping with tragedy and becoming accustomed to difficulties in order to have the energy to continue. For artists in Gaza, life and their working environment have been especially devastating, but new media, photographic and digital technologies have opened new ways of working and been enthusiastically embraced. Since the advent and first availability of digital cameras, they have recorded Gaza, almost incessantly in some cases, posting on social media and creating digital works that are readily emailable, and printable and exhibitable elsewhere. Mohammed Al Hawajri has combined images of the Gaza to which he is confined, subject to the blockade and restrictions on movement, in digital collages that make imaginative and creative use of the online digitised image banks of artworks. Shareef Sarhan, who is also employed as a UN photographer and has extensively documented death and destruction, constantly creates a daily archive of life in Gaza, countering the images presented in the media with an emphasis on the positive and daily aspects of life: fishermen, children playing, the beach and sea, market traders, farmers. Such recording is a crucial and intimate part of his practice as an artist. If, tamam, everything is fine, then we can abandon our Sisyphean tasks and go home happy to sleep comfortably. In Palestine many times everything can have the superficial appearance of seeming to be fine, otherwise it would be impossible to go from day to day. But it is in that space, the space where everything is not actually fine that creative action is possible, and even essential. If we abandon that hope and give up the constant push to get the rock to the top of the hill, we are paralysed and condemned, in Camus’ philosophy, to suicide. History, events and experiences have profoundly affected Palestinian eyes and minds, yet, at the same time, have given them the means to manoeuvre that knowledge to another level. Photographic means and practices have enabled a previously unknown flexibility and creativity. There are rich seams to be mined. Sisyphus can never go home; he must keep his pushing his rock up the hill. This is an edited and updated version of an essay formerly published in the catalogue to the Mapping exhibition curated by Samar Martha for Art Dubai Projects in 2009. 56 tribe

Tribe 01  

Photography and New Media from the Arab world

Tribe 01  

Photography and New Media from the Arab world

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