Queen's University

Academics and filmmakers create Israeli-Palestinian artistic research project

 Houses in Jerusalem's Qatamon neighbourhood.

A new community-based, multi-generational video project designed by Queen’s and Simon Fraser university researchers will engage the complex bi-national and multi-ethnic histories of a neighbourhood in southern Jerusalem.

“Qatamon in Color” explores the forgotten pasts contained in the houses of Qatamon. In 1948 the peaceful Palestinian neighbourhood became a site of armed conflict when Israel took over and Palestinians were forced to flee or evacuate. The Israeli government temporarily housed Jewish refugees from the Arab world in the homes, and later sold the houses to upper-middle class Israelis.

“Israelis need to understand the agony of the Palestinian people who have lost their homes, just as many of the Jews who have been living in these homes since 1948 were displaced from their homes in Europe or the Middle East,” explains Dorit Naaman, the Israeli-Canadian counterpart on the project. “If we recognize that both Palestinians and Israelis have a history there, we can start to find ways to move forward.”

A lot of the political discourse around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict focuses on Israeli’s occupation of the West Bank since 1967. There is a way in which the Palestinian past in the rest of Israel is not discussed, resulting in a kind of Israeli willful forgetting,” Dr. Naaman adds. “At the same time, the history of Israelis originating from Middle Eastern countries is also rarely told, resulting in another layer of erasure, which the project aims to remedy.”

Dr. Naaman and her collaborators hope to bring some of this past to light by giving current and former residents of Qatamon the opportunity to create short, personalized videos about their experiences and memories of the neighbourhood. The videos by individual Israelis and Palestinians will then be projected on the houses in Qatamon. The researchers plan to digitize the resulting oral history with the help of local youth, who will learn about digital film technology while connecting with the stories of the earlier generations. The team also hopes that the videos will allow other researchers to investigate the ability of digital media to engage with memory and trauma, and communicate these experiences to wide audiences.

Dr. Dana Olwan, Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University, will lead the research side of the project, traveling through the Middle East and North American to meet and recruit the Palestinian families who were forcibly displaced from their homes. “Without their personal stories and narratives one cannot construct an accurate depiction of the complex and multilayered histories of this neighborhood,” Dr. Olwan explains. “I want to understand what memories they have of their homes and what material, physical, emotional, and psychic connections they continue to have with Qatamon in particular and Palestine in general.”

The team is composed of Dr. Naaman, the Alliance Atlantis professor of Film and Media at Queen’s University, Dr. Dana Olwan, a Queen’s PhD graduate (English) and currently the prestigious Ruth Wynn Woodward Junior Chair and Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, and Sobhi al Zobaidi, a Palestinian filmmaker who will hold a postdoctoral fellowship at Queen’s through this project.

The project is funded through a Research/Creation Grant in Fine Arts from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

To learn more about “Qatamon in Color” visit Dr. Naaman’s website, www.diadocumentary.ca/articles.

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Last updated at 5:55 am EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
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