Home Away from Home, 2017
"I was born in Gaza in 1966 to a family of fabric merchants, just a few months before the 1967 war and the Israeli occupation. From 1985 to 1992, against the will of my parents, I studied fine art at An-Najah National University in Nablus. I was awarded a fellowship to study at the École nationale supérieure d’art in Bourges, France, and received my master’s (DNSEP) in 1997. Thereafter, I divided my time between France and Palestine, until 2006, when Gaza became—and unfortunately remains—quite impossible to visit due to the siege imposed by Israel.
The work that follows was made as part of Immersion, a French American Photography Commission, a program launched by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès in alliance with Aperture Foundation. I proposed to trace the history and journey of a few of my cousins who, as university graduates, all chose to emigrate and settle in the United States beginning in the 1960s, an era of economic immigration. Drawn by the American dream? Or pure chance and whim? I had met them all before, briefly. When I was a child, they often came to spend summers in Gaza, and once or twice they traveled through France, where I live now. But their individual decisions to settle in the United States have always intrigued me. In my immediate family, I am the only one who decided to leave Gaza; I share my life with my wife, Sophie, and my children, Saad and Amir, in Paris.
The state of “between-ness”—cultural and geographic—is an issue that has preoccupied me since I settled here. Exile, displacement, and mobility are themes that have driven my work for many years. For this reason, I chose to focus on my cousins Kamal, Khadra, Sobhi, Ahmed, Samir, and Akram, and their American experience. I wanted to explore their desire to be where they are, and their desire to remain connected to or return to their origins. This inner contradiction—the dislocation between the past that haunts us, and the present that inhabits us— plays on us continually, and is perpetually unresolved.
The works presented here are the result of journeys I made in 2017, to Florida, where Ahmed and his family live, and to California, where I stayed with Sobhi and Khadra, Kamal, Samir, Akram, and their respective families. I do not pretend to reveal the lives of my American cousins in their entirety, in all their complexities, nor to present an exhaustive statement on the Arab and Palestinian diaspora in the United States. These works are instead my impressions, born of these encounters, varying in their intensity, according to the context, place, and degree of interaction with these members of my family."
Home Away from Home / Drawings, 2017
"When I had the idea of working on the Home Away from Home project alongside my cousins emigrated to the United States, and after contacting them by phone, I felt the need to reconnect with this part of my family and my life. I hadn’t seen my cousins since I was a child in Gaza. So I started a series of drawings from memory, in pencil and watercolour. To remind me of their faces and appearance first, then to imagine what they might look like today. Then, always from memory, I drew some kind of “souvenir photos”, “snapshots” of their summer visits to Gaza in the 1970s. Then, before and during the project, I put on paper childhood memories that surfaced again. The drawings “Jet Lag”, “Untitled / Water” and “Untitled / Sand”, on the other hand, are a kind of installation, objects or sculptures inspired by my travels between Paris and the United States, between Florida and California."