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TitleBorders - Contemporary Middle Eastern Art and Discourse
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Page 1

The Hague

October 2007 | January 2009

Contemporary Middle Eastern Art and Discourse

R o b e r t K l u i j v e r

Page 71

71 | Introduction

the Cycle of the Border in Gemak

71 | Introduction

the Cycle of the Border in Gemak


Rula Halawani (born in East Jerusalem, 1964, and

still resident there) abandoned a successful career

in photojournalism to focus on photography.

She set up the photography department at Birzeit

University and has participated in major exhibitions


“I started documenting the wall almost from
when they started building it, but each time I
developed the pictures all that showed was its
ugliness and my anger. %en the wall reached
Qalandia checkpoint. %ey started building
it right in the middle of the road, my road
to work. I always fantasized that one day we
would plant trees in the middle of that road.
Once it reached Qalandia, the wall reached
me and found my fear. %ey put down the
foundations, stopped for a while and then
they put it up block by block along the mid-
dle of the road.

I wanted to photograph it at night. Maybe
to show I wasn’t scared. I went. %e wall was
so ugly, the land sad and scarred. %ere were
only soldiers, heavy machines and the sound
of dogs barking. I was terri$ed and desolate. I
took the photographs during the day, but the
memory of that night was in them.

A#er I $nished the project, one night, and I
do not know why, I suddenly felt I needed to
go see the wall. It was the Jewish New Year.
It was almost midnight but I jumped in my
car and went back. I drove all along the wall
and arrived back at my $rst night there, at the
place with the heavy machines and barking
dogs. %ey were all locked up. I enjoyed the
scene. I returned home through the Mount of
Olives, where I $rst stepped foot on this ea-
rth, my earth. I got out and looked and made
a promise, a promise to my Land.”

(Statement by the photographer)

Rula Halawani:
Untitled (The Wall),
Digital Print, 2003

Page 139

139 | Introduction

the Cycle of the Border in Gemak

Page 140

140 | Introduction

the border

Borders gives an overview of how artists and intellectuals
from the Middle East and beyond come to terms with
political conflict in their region. The impact of the obsession
with security on their societies, new mechanisms – soft
and hard – to separate and control groups of people, the
withering of public space and the discourse that shapes it,
the loss of meaning of nationhood: these urgent themes are
tentatively explored by artists, architects and other critical
observers from the Middle East.

This collective artistic research formed the backbone of three
exhibitions and the accompanying activities in Gemak, a new
centre for art and politics in The Hague. Artists and experts
from the Middle East were invited to extend their activities
to the Dutch city – known as the capital of international law
– in order to ascertain how far the shifting nature of Borders
is also redefining public life in the old Western metropolises.

The author, Robert Kluijver, spent a decade working
in international relations, social research and cultural
development in the Middle East, Central and South Asia
before curating these exhibitions in Gemak.

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