Palestine: Unlimited

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[TOP] A visitor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco views photographs from the first annual Karimeh Abboud Award Competition. [BOTTOM] Luay Sababa’s photograph “Checkpoint 300” captures Palestinian workers at the main checkpoint in Bethlehem. (STAFF PHOTOS PHIL PASQUINI)

 
Elaine Pasquini, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 2017 March-April

Throughout the month of December, photographs from the first annual Karimeh Abboud Award Competition were on display in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco. The exhibition, “Palestine: Unlimited,” was presented by the charitable organization Bright Stars of Bethlehem. Bright Stars is dedicated to the support of the Bethlehem-based Diyar Consortium, which includes, among other Bethlehem institutions, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts & Culture, which initiated the showing.

Hailing from across all of historical Palestine, the 10 finalists were Mohammed al-Kurd, Mohammad Shaloudi, Luay Sababa, May Hirbawi, Saleh Zghari, Waseem Ali, Majd Sanuri, Reem Awad, Alaa abu Salem and first prize winner Nihaya al-Haj Mahmoud. The exhibition was curated by filmmaker Mahasen Nasser-Eldin, who teaches film studies and production at Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts & Culture.

In presenting their wide range of subjects, the artists utilized various styles of photography, including experimental, abstract, conceptual and documentary.

Luay Sababa’s wrenching photo “Checkpoint 300” captures Palestinian workers traversing the checkpoint in Bethlehem—where unemployment is high—to work in Israel.

“Our Mother is Palestinian” by Mohammad Shaloudi offers an oft-seen vignette in the Old City of Jerusalem of a mother selling her vegetables in the street.

May Hirbawi’s photo “Demolition Order” reveals a Bedouin learning his home will soon be confiscated and demolished.

“There’s been a lot of talk recently about the need for empathy and to take someone else’s point of view,” Randy Schieber, chair of St. Mark’s endowment fund, which helped sponsor the exhibition, told visitors at the Dec. 4 opening reception. “This exhibit really puts us in the eyes of these young adults in Palestine and offers us a glimpse into their lives.”

The award is named for photographer Karimeh Abboud (1893-1940), who shattered stereotypes by becoming the first professional female photographer in Palestine, where she had studios in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa and Jerusalem.

—Elaine Pasquini