Named after an infamous Israeli checkpoint, Qalandiya International (Qi) was founded in 2012 with the aim to place Palestine on the international cultural map, through a programme of exhibitions, events, performances and more. For the first time this year, the biennial extends beyond Palestinian cities and villages, with exhibitions taking place in Beirut, Amman and London in tandem with the main artistic programme in Palestine.
Resonating the trauma of Palestinian Nakba and the longing for the return of refugees to their lands now occupied by Israel, Qalandiya International adopts the sea as its main theme this year. According to the biennial’s curatorial team, this is a theme often omitted in political and public discourse, and the sea has become yet another wall for the Palestinians: it “[has] been transformed into another component of the siege, or a trap for those fleeing death.”
“Can a word carry the cure to all the ailments, both past and present, of a tragedy? For us Palestinians, ‘Return’ has become the core antithesis to our ‘Nakba’.”
Qalandiya International 2016 comes at a time when the Palestinian tragedy of displacement is repeated at an even larger scale in Syria and the Mediterranean. However, “the recent escalation of violence in the Arab world and the resulting human tragedies and mass displacements that have followed may shift the last glimpse of light shining on the plight of Palestinian refugees over to more urgent and pressing issues.” Qi’s exhibitions, actions and participating artists hopefully will raise awareness once more about the injustice of Palestinian displacement, at a time when similar policies are being enacted on other peoples in the region in blood-chillingly similar ways.
Qalandiya International 2016 “This Sea Is Mine” continues at various venues in Haifa, Gaza, London, Beirut, Amman, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem until October 31. Please visit the official website of Qalandiya International for the full programme and list of participating artists. You can also read the full catalogue of the biennial published on the official website of Ibraaz.
1. Tarek Al-Goussein, from the exhibition The People of the Sea, Haifa. Copyright the artist.
2. Photo by Sama Alshaibi.