Dar al-Kalima honors legacy of female photographer

Narrow streets and alleyways have long been the playgrounds of Palestinian children.

Since 1948, the constantly constricting boundaries of Palestinian Territories have swallowed up much of the public gathering spaces. Today’s Palestinian kids are accustomed to playing in the winding alleyways that connect the mazes of homes. For their ancestors, this hasn’t always been the case.

Alexandra Sophie Handal, grew up listening to stories of her ancestors exploring West Jerusalem parks and roaming its neighborhoods freely, before they were forced to exile in 1948. These areas, of course, are now off-limits to her ancestors. She also discovered during recent visits, that many parts are even off-limits to those who live there now.

Ms. Handall, this year’s first place winner of Dar al-Kalima University’s Karimeh Abboud Award, captures the increasingly restricted nature of her ancestor’s homeland. Launched in 2016 by Dar al Kalima University, the award honors its namesake, Karimeh Abboud, the first professional female photographer in Palestine. The award restores a forgotten past of and brings that legacy into present by honoring current Palestinian photographers in Palestine and the Diaspora.

Ms. Handals’ winning photograph entitled “No Parking Without Permission, Jerusalem,” was created during a number of walks through West Jerusalem neighborhoods. Handal explored the the same alleys and streets where her ancestors played, streets that inhabited stories of her childhood. Handal depicts these street scenes as framed by various barriers – fences, gates, and bushes— highlighting both the distance and the closeness of the Palestinian people to these areas. Ms. Handal’s own exilic existence has taken her to diverse corners of the world. Born in Haiti, raised in the Dominican Republic, educated in the United States and Europe, she now resides in Germany. This constant displacement has given fueled her artistic inspiration.

“I have experienced no other form of belonging but that of an outsider. However, what this meant transformed over time from being a space of alienation to one of novelty, where new imaginings are possible.”

New imaginings. New possibilities. This is what Bright Stars of Bethlehem is all about.