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Qatamon in Colour


Artist's Statement by Dorit Naaman

Qatamon Houses

If only a house could tell us its own stories, write its biography, enunciate its history. . . Like our pets, our houses imprint us, but they cannot express their impressions of us.

A few years ago I found a map of the Qatamon neighbourhood of Jerusalem, drawn from memory in 1951 by Hala Sakakini, a resident of the neighborhood until 1948. At about the same time I read a semi-autobiographical novel about a Moroccan Jewish family that was housed in Qatamon in the early 1950s, crowded in one apartment with many other families, until project housing (the Qatamonim) were built for them. I also found out that Jewish refugees from the Old City of Jerusalem were moved to the neighborhood in 1948, some of whom still reside there. These pasts are barely noticeable by the mostly affluent Ashkenazi community that now dominates the neighborhood. Can we acknowledge the different reincarnations of the neighborhood at once? Can the houses somehow tell of the homes they are and were? Space is easily politicized into a Place, but this project's goal is to humanize the neighborhood's different phases through the various house stories, and thus to bypass what is otherwise usually politicized in reductive terms.

Qatamon in Colour will engage current families, as well as those who have lived in the neighborhood over the years, in a communal project. With the help of our team, each family will have a chance to produce their own short video (3-5min), and some of those will be projected on the houses. The videos are not intended to be documentaries, but rather a short story, or a poetic reminiscence, or an event told and narrated in video. We imagine the project to be multi-generational, whereby we train younger generations in shooting/editing the videos, and together engage the older generation with their memories.

The installation itself will likely include 4-5 houses, (with 3-4 videos per house). The installation will later be converted to digital tours (via ipod, iphone, etc.) as well as regular walking tours. From its onset there will be an interactive website that will enable families to use as a depository for pictures and stories. The website will later be adopted to include the videos and to reflect the life of the project. A series of academic papers and a seminar/workshop during the installation will accompany the project.

The project received a grant from the Canadian Federal government (through its Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, or SSHRC). The team includes an Israeli filmmaker/researcher of media and culture (myself), a Palestinian expert on Arab diaspora cultural production (Dana Olwan), and a postdoctoral fellow- a Palestinian filmmaker (Sobhi al Zobaidi).

-- Dorit Naaman

Queen's University