Thursday, May 19, 2016

First post from London: reflections on the 'nothingness' of the Palestinian Museum

As the Palestinian Museum was opening in Birzeit last night after twenty years of waiting, I was headed to an event called: "Space and Memory in the War-Torn City"; which featured "eight short films exploring people’s relationships with cities in the Arab world that are being altered and destroyed by conflict." Quite fitting.








It so happened that the event took place at the same time that the opening of the PM was being broadcasted online. What a shame, I missed the livestream!

Worse still, I missed the opening. I was unable to attend the actual opening in Birzeit.

As one among millions of Palestinians who currently live abroad, I was unable to attend the Palestinian Museum's opening due to travel, border, and movement restrictions that deprive us from visiting our country.

Coincidentally, I had a long conversation today with someone who's doing research about a specific topic related to the political scene in Palestine. She asked me many questions, but a particularly banal question struck me: "how did Israeli occupation affect your life?" Seriously, how do you answer a question like that? I paused for a minute and reflected on my life, struck by how much our generation has already witnessed: from my earliest encounter with an Israeli soldier who confiscated my battery-run toys on Rafah Border sometime in the early 90s, to last night, when I couldn't attend the opening because, essentially, the toy confiscation mentality still runs our lives.

Back then, 4 year-old me, crying my heart out on the border, I was totally convinced that the soldier loved my brand new, unopened toys, so much that he wanted to take them for his children. He was jealous.

Today, as I'm in the final stages of completing my masters degree in Cultural Heritage Studies, and having conducted a lot of research on the politics of cultural heritage in Palestine, I'm convinced that my reasoning with the soldier's behaviour applies to his government's actions with our cultural heritage.

Watching the short films at the event last night, I was reminded -visually- of how similar cities in the Middle East are, in terms of both their physical and mental landscapes. I was profoundly struck by how similar they are in terms of their destroyed, and empty, landscapes as well. 


Left: Beirut (wikipedia.com) Right: Gaza (Anas Elkhoudary)


Emptiness and destruction, relatively speaking, can testify to something. 

Though I was unable to attend the opening in person last night, for some abstract reason, I felt that the emptiness of the museum sent a comforting message to those of us out here. It might have been a message of unity: and perhaps this was the only means by which we could be united; that we could all, essentially, see the same thing: nothingness.

In a positive way.

Twenty years of waiting for the museum to open. And when it did open, it was empty. Waiting results in nothing, but taking matters into our own hands will. At the museum and beyond.



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