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Al-Walaja behind the lens: Storytelling through images

July 12, 2012 4:14 P.M. (Updated: May 20, 2015 5:48 P.M.)
By: Charlie Hoyle

DAR AL-KALIMA, Bethlehem (Ma'an) -- Children from the village of al-Walaja on Wednesday exhibited a series of photos in Bethlehem which document social, political and cultural issues that affect their everyday lives.

The project entitled "I am Al-Walaja" is the continuation of an arts advocacy initiative started by Alison Ramer in 2011.

"The project teaches children how to tell stories and advocate for human rights. It stimulates the creative process," Ramer told Ma'an.

"It also aims to encourage children to pursue higher education in the arts."

Ten students from the village worked with photographer Ahed Izhiman to tell the story of the changing fortunes of a village severely impacted by the Israeli occupation.

In 1948, al-Walaja was the second largest land area after Jerusalem, but was cut down to one third the size when Israel declared statehood that year.

Today, the 2,500-strong community face severe restrictions on land use due to Israel's separation wall, which once completed, will completely encircle the village.

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

The village is also nearly entirely surrounded by Har Gilo and Gilo settlements.

The photography exhibition is part of an advocacy project entitled "Images and Identity", which teaches young Palestinians how to use images to articulate history, identity and space.

It first showcased in Nabi Saleh, when young villagers spent a summer learning how to use photography as a tool of storytelling.

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

In 2012, "Image and Identity" became a project of Grassroots Jerusalem, an urban and human rights organization focused on East Jerusalem, and one of their local partners, the Ansar Center in al-Walaja.

In August, the project will move to the flashpoint Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where photographers will work with local youngsters to create 'I am Silwan.'

"Art is about advocacy," Ramer says, "and this project is about providing children with a creative opportunity to do that."

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)

(MaanImages/Charlie Hoyle)
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