Nablus turns inside out
On Saturday, 19 youth from Nablus came to the TYO center for a photography workshop. At some point or another all were previous students of the Triple Exposure program and some still are. They came from Balata, Askar, Khallet al-Amood and the greater Nablus area. They came to take pictures and participate in a group project of identity. They came in cliques separated by neighborhood and age. At first the room was quiet as most of these young adults did not previously know each other. We mixed them up into four groups, a mixture of Nabulsi youth ranging in ages from 12-15. The project began.
These young Palestinians unraveled themselves in a profound way. Once they discovered that this was a safe space they poured themselves into the project. The Inside Out project is an international photography project that aims to give a voice to an individual’s community about who they are. It began with French photographer, ex-street artist JR when he won the Ted Talks prize. His project has taken off across the world as people from Madagascar to Canada have participated. It’s simple, create a statement of intent upload a portrait on the website and a large portrait is sent back. This portrait is than pasted up within your community for everyone to see. The process is documented and your portrait is put on-line for the world to see.
JR inspired me from the moment I saw his Ted Talk, "Use art to turn the world inside out." He speaks about the potential of art to inspire change, to express our hopes and dreams to the world in a way that inspires change.
In Nablus, I’m pretty sure a majority of it’s resident don’t think art can change things. But this Saturday I was convinced that it is often the spark, the inspiration and the place of expression that creates change.
I didn’t know most of these youth before they came. They don’t even know each other. But we all came. They all photographed each other creating portraits outlined by their silhouettes. These silhouettes framed their faces in words, of change, of identity and hope. They each were asked to talk about three things to write about themselves, something about who they are, about their community and about what they want to change. What they wanted to tell the world.
I want to lead. To be a leader to change our society so that it can be right (fixed).
Mahmoud, age 14. Askar Refugee camp
Will we ever live in freedom? I want to raise our thoughts, our society's thoughts, and our freedom of expression. I want to raise our thoughts to the next level of freedom of expression. I want to free our thoughts.
Loai, age 12. Balata Refugee camp.
When I play football I feel free.
The statements from these Nablusi youth come out like they are at the tip of their soul, ready for the world to hear for their communities to hear. They leave excited with new friends, asking how they can sign up for summer classes at TYO. Art, photography created this space for them. A place where they are encouraged to pour out their hopes, their dreams and ideas for change without criticism. They know that TYO is a safe place, a place there they can do this. They leave asking what is the next step of our project? When will they meet again?
There’s more to come, this is just the first stage of the Nablusi Inside Out project. Where we turn our identities inside out to the community.
Once again I pose this question to you. Can art change the world?
-Abi is the Triple Exposure Coordinator