Being an international student from Amman (Jordan), I have been subject to scare after scare, as a result of biased and falsified main media stories being shared in the West. The heartbreaking chaos that has taken place in the Middle Eastern area; war, revolutions, extremism, occupation and social injustices have affected thousands of refugees, my family, friends and the people that I proudly share a culture and home with. My inspiration formed from main media articles in comparison to social media articles that I have collected and read over the last 2 years, from both Amman and Cardiff. Through the use of Arabic calligraffiti (a method combining calligraphy and graffiti), collage and some sculpture, I have created work that is a personal emotional response, including my honest thoughts, commonly used phrases and poetry as a therapeutic way to deal with the articles in the media and bring the lives of the innocent to attention. Additionally I aim to give others an insight into the reality of the issues and facts about the innocent lives affected and a perception Western media will not portray, hopefully creating more sense of a global community rather than an ‘us vs. them’ way of thinking.
Throughout my work I have generated my own scannable QR codes, each one relating to links of online videos and articles from my research related to my works concepts.
Since the beginning of this academic year I have been creating these QR codes and putting them up on my studio space wall alongside handwritten comments like ” keep walking by, just like everyone else..”. They did catch some attention by people passing by and only a few actually scanned them. In a tutorial I had with artist Mark Gubb (as mentioned in my context posts) I discussed the ideas of having the QR codes as the wallpaper for the inside of the tent I plan on building. After explaining that the reason I chose to use QR codes and not any other method of getting people to read/watch the link I’ve shared, is because in uni we are required to have one relating to each of our blog sites for assessment; meaning everyone should have a QR scanner on them at uni, therefor not having a reason not to scan. The QR code has become a semi ironic/comedic factor that is recurring throughout my work. Gubb’s suggestion was to use the patterns seen in QR codes as a modern/ made up camoflage pattern for the tent ‘fabric’.
Below is a sketch of the first tent idea I drew up, and shows where I wanted to use the QR codes originally inside the tent as the wallpaper.
This piece from my Gap crit on the far right, is a collage I made with newspaper articles and collected trinkets, with QR codes related to different articles related to the same issues discussed in the newspaper articles. Although it is not one of my favourite pieces, it is the stepping stone into using the QR codes in a more serious matter in my work.
*UPDATED 5th May*
This is my final updated photograph of my tents progress. I took my work one step further by spreading the calligraffiti on the floor in the tent as well as the walls and then out onto the floor and up the wall behind where the tent sat in its final position. I hung the Kufiyehs and Hattas (Palestinian and Jordanian scarfs) on the tent and up on the wall, the way and elderly man would hang up his scarf after a long day in his home, wheres as now due to settlers in Palestine occupying the land these innocent families are forced to leave their homes and some killed. My work often reduces me to tears but this was the most emotionally satisfying piece I have ever made but makes me cry even at the thought of the amount of people and their lives that are affected in every article related to my tent.
I used trinkets throughout the interior of the tent to give a decorated and lived in refuge shelter feel. I have spent so much time working on, in and around the tent that I have connected with it, making it a familiar place to me now, which I think helped this aesthetic naturally. The details in the objects that build up this shelter are the most important aspect of my work. From worry beads (rosaries) that I made out of clay with teapot handles and other found objects. Checker pieces, pieces of glass, plaster bullets; hopefully all of these speak for themselves in my work.
*UPDATED 29th April*
I have added more articles than I could have imagined using a few months ago. I ended up using over 400 screen shot pictures of articles that I had saved over the last couple of years; all printed, cut, collaged and calligraffitied on, as a bigger part of the tent and what covered the majority of the inside of the tent.
While working on the tent fabric which is what made up the walls that I covered on the tent inside, I realised that the semi-meditative or venting state that I would get in to create/paint on my work was all done on the floor. I felt most comfortable listening to specific music after subjecting myself to a while reading/watching articles related to home and the Middle East. My work is deeply personal and allows me to control my emotions and frustrations to do with the subject matter, as this is my reality and I often have to take a moment to myself and get myself together a little more.
I have found that I have been documenting all of the information I have read about the recent events occurring in the Middle East and all of my ideas for my work and final idea for my degree show installation, through the use of sketchbooks. The photos are of numerous recent pages in my sketchbook that are relevant and an important contributing factor to my work. All of my thoughts, ideas, sketches for designs, emotional rants (a large concept which relates to my work) and notes of significant influences. I struggle to blog sometimes due to a variety of reasons, but keeping a sketchbook is always something I have enjoyed and done naturally throughout any project I work on. It helps me visualise my ideas and concepts, no matter how silly some seem a few days after when I go through the weeks notes; all aspects influence my work and help me keep my mind at ease. After all my work is emotional and extremely personal to me, and my work has become a somewhat reflection of my current ‘everyday life’.
I have inserted a link to one of the voice memos I have recorded about my ideas in general as a mental note. As I have dyslexia, visuals like sketches and voice memos are the best way for me to get my ideas and thoughts down, as writing them tends to fluster me and most times ends up with me forgetting the idea.
The photos below are of my sketchbook. The first photo is of final sketches of the plan for the tent I am planning on building, inspired by refugee tents. My final tent idea is a tent frame made out of bamboo, as I was unable to borrow a tent frame from the scouts/army, and found it to be too expensive to but a collapsable chicken coop off the internet. The bamboo is strong enough (I have experimented and will post pictures soon) to support the paper and bits of fabric (Hatta’ or Qufiyeh fabric relating to Jordan and Palestine) that will be covering the frame. I will calligraffiti all over the tent, during a day I plan on shutting myself off from the world for a while and read and listen to music, hoping to end up with a genuine, honest, emotional response to it all.
I may present my sketchbook in the centre of the tent, along side a jar that will contain trinkets such as a compass, a clock or some worry beads, symbolising my roots; my parents and grandparents, born and raised in the Middle East (Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan), that I always remember with trinkets like these on them at all times throughout my childhood.
Below are some facts that I have documented about Palestine; that wouldn’t normally be shared often on mainstream media.
The picture below contains one of my first sketches of the concept I had about building the tent. I was unsure whether to use museum like barriers around the tent for viewers to walk around; I’m hoping to make viewers feel uncomfortable and slightly overwhelmed by the realness of the issue my work is about, while looking at the “home” hundreds of thousands of people have been living in, ‘looking and not touching’ from the outside; as the world is doing about the occupations and current issues occurring on a global scale.
These are a few sketches I did in response to some research while listening to music; the article was about a woman who lives amongst the refugees in a camp and has dedicated her life to around 400 of the refugee children.
The words say ” Ya rabbi, albi byi’taa, byi’taa albi.” which translates to “My God, my heart breaks, it breaks my heart.” I said this under my breath after reading the article. They are common empathetic phrases used often in the Arabic speaking culture.
These are some images of the work that I made and displayed at my Gap Crit in uni. I hoped to create a post protest-like environment with a variety of pieces I have been working on since I decided to continue working in the subject of current Middle Eastern issues, each piece a different contributing part of my working process.
Using newspaper and paint, I created the piece on the left (as seen below). The names in dark olive green (I later realised could have been related to the known olive trees + Palestine link) of innocent victims that have been murdered in Palestine under the age of 25. That is my generation. The words I wrote on top I feel are self explanitory, ” They grew up 166,02km away from me, but never had the chance to “, which is in fact true.
The piece in the right hand corner is a collage I made with numerous black and white articles I have scanner-collaged (ie. I used a scanner with a variety of compositions of objects I selected like books, trinkets and newspaper articles).
Through using QR codes that I generated that were linked to numerous videos, online articles and petitions, that I’d hoped viewers to watch and be informed of the real issues, that drives my work.
I hung up the Jordanian Hatta’ (as seen below) with worry (aka prayer beads) as if someone had hung up say, their keys and coat for the day in Western civilisation, but as a reflection of Palestinian civilisation. I did not wish my work to be about a single Middle Eastern culture, however I included references from a variety of them hoping to suggest this. The Jordanian Hatta’, Palestinian and Syrian handmade trinkets that I associate with small sentimental objects people may carry on long journeys or to remember loved ones, and stones varying in shape and size, all scattered symbolising the rock throwers during war and revolution.
The overall feedback I received on my Gap crit was optimistic, and has helped me with the push I needed in my current work. I am passionate, always have been and probably always will be as this is work about my roots; making it quite personal to me.
*I have edited and added newer photos into this post to help show the progress in this recurring theme (writing using Arabic calligraphy, my immediate emotional responses to stories I learn about) in my work*
“Oh God, my hearts breaks, it breaks my heart. Akh.”
The banner includes phrases I wrote down as a response to the stone throwing children of Palestine, simply saying “if you run fast enough, you live”.
These two pieces include a poem: “A storm cannot uproot a forest”, relating to the occupied Palestinian land taken by illegal Israeli settlers.
The other simply says, “Oh Lord, oh God, poor things akh. God protect them, Lord please, for the love of God, please help them, for the love of God.”
This piece is the names of the innocent victims under the age of 25 that have been murdered in Palestine through the occupation, that took place 166,02km away from the home which I grew up in. A country so close (both for personal family links) and an unbreakable connection between the Palestinian and Jordanian culture; how could I not identify with these kids, I grew up with friends just like them. That could have been us.
“Strength” in response the the ridiculous accusations and altered truths main media portrays. The necessity to stay strong and power through no matter what is said.
*UPDATED* 20th April
I have used the older pieces I created as emotional responses and created some more after listening to music and reading numerous articles about the U.S elections that are currently taking place; specifically Donald Trump. I was frustrated and allowed my brain to bilingually write down in both Arabic and English how I was feeling in response.
“Khara ala’ Trump” + “Savage bastard”
I have spent hours in the tent alone over the past 2 months, adding parts, building, and resting in the tent. This has made emotionally connecting with the tent easier as I feel comfortable working in the environment and began to build an emotional attachment just as anyone would build an attachment to a constantly visited shelter.
These are some photos of my original brick collage which I plan on displaying in my final exhibit at our degree show, which was influenced by the work I created for my gap crit at university. I have used a variety of materials in both parts of this work, like broken pieces of brick that I collaged and tried to ‘fix’, evil eyes (handmade by me and ones made in Palestine, Syria and Jordan), glass pieces, a broken piece of teacup, worry beads, stones and fragile plaster bullets that I made with names of the fragile and innocent victims, on them.
Although all the objects act as symbols in themselves; together I hoped they would be able to represent the “rubble” that remained after the chaos, with trinkets and remains of the home and life before it all. I have been enjoying using the objects and trinkets as contributing factors to my work, each with its own voice and input into my work.
These are the latest pieces I have worked on. The sculptures or 3D collages that I played with and rearranged were not permanent; allowing me to try different compositions. I photographed them using a set of professional lighting and DSLR camera in order to achieve detailed photos with a dramatic effect to them. The bricks and branches are found, which are collaged and layered with newspaper cutouts and stamped and painted clay pieces. I glued some bricks together that don’t completely fit together; indicating that when something is broken, you can never fully put it back to normal. This is something I wish to continue to explore and expand on.
This is a cut out I made which says “Even if the world ends tomorrow, today I shall plant a tree”. This is my own exaggerated take on calligraphy based from my handwriting in arabic. I plan to use this stencil on an exposed screen print, for collaging and as possible backgrounds for future works. I felt the phrase could be used with a number of concepts related to the refugees having to remain optimistic and resilient.
I plan to make more similar stencils, to use for spray painting onto the boxes to build up my collages. For the pieces below I used pieces of thin wood I cut up to drag paint across the paper to create an organic mark, similarly to a method of calligraphy which uses larger, flat and solid tools to write.
I also made beads and stamped letters into small pieces of clay to paint and add onto my collages/sculptures. I used English letters to write phrases or words in both Arabic and English. An aspect of my work that I enjoy; which is that not all can be understood and hopefully leave the viewer with a feeling of unease or curiosity.