‘This Sea Is Mine’: An Exploration of the Subject of Return
Dates: 5-31 October 2016
Qalandiya International’s executive council has announced that the third edition of its collaborative artistic program, which takes place in different sites all over Palestine, will be launched between the 5th and the 31st of October this year and will be built around the theme of return.
The executive council is made up of representatives from several of Palestine’s cultural and artistic organisations, including the Arab Cultural Association, the A. M. Qattan Foundation, the Palestinian Art Court – Al-Hoash , the International Academy of Art – Palestine, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, The Palestinian Museum, Ramallah Municipality and the Center for Architectural Conservation – RIWAQ. This year’s edition will also be seeking to connect with new partners, welcoming participation from various cultural institutions working in the diaspora.
According to Khaldoun Bshara, the Director of Riwaq, the over-riding aim of the festival this year is to open up an in-depth discussion around the important subject of Palestinian return – particularly in the context of the terrible events currently unfolding in the region. This is a period in which the Nakba’s repercussions are revealed as harsher and more devastating than ever before. As we watch Palestinian refugees forced to flee for a second, third, and even fourth time, directly addressing this aspect of the Palestinian question – the eventual fate of these refugees – has never been more crucial.
Qalandiya International 3 will therefore be released under the title ‘This Sea is Mine’, and will attempt to deal with the subject of return from a different perspective. Through its focus on the sea, it will seek “to reinstate Palestine’s presence in its own history and geography, and to restore its relationship with its natural horizons and with the rest of the world.”
Jack Persekian, director of Al-Ma’mal Foundation, has noted the very real danger of transforming the idea of return from an inherent right, one which for many Palestinians is almost sacred, and a demand integral to the Palestinian national project, to a mere slogan with no connection to meaningful political projects. In general, the use of the term is limited to political speeches; it is thus reduced at a grass-roots level to nothing but a set of symbols (the key, the map, etc.), while the deep questions that should be raised around this issue are completely neglected.
“It is time”, suggests Alia Rayan, the director of Al-Hoash, that Palestinians re-assess the concept of return. Qalandiya International will incite a debate at multiple levels, through the serious contributions of artists from Palestine and around the world, and through the crucial participation of all those ordinary people to whom this discussion truly belongs.
Qalandiya International is organised every two years in locations across historic Palestine, creating cultural connections between places long separated by occupation and presenting a substantial international collaboration through dozens of activities and programs produced in a single, collective endeavour. The aim of the event is to promote contemporary Palestinian culture both locally and internationally, in the hopes of creating an inspiring model for combining our collective energy and resources, and of forging creative connections in a context riddled with obstacles and restrictions.
Qalandiya International provides an opportunity for artists and creators to present their work to the public. Opening up channels of communication with the local populations, it can engender new forums for interacting with art and new perspectives on all manner of issues and ideas.
In the second edition (2014), over 100 local and international artists participated in Qalandiya International. Visitor numbers exceeded 9500, and over 65 events were held in 15 cities, towns and villages across historic Palestine. Not only do we expect the third edition to widen its geographical reach and to welcome still more visitors and participants, but in 2016 we will be extending Qalandiya International’s activities far beyond Palestine.