Overlooking Amman’s hills via a balcony installation at Darat al Funun gallery is artist Hamdi Attia’s work Archipelago, A World Map. In reinterpreting the globe, Attia presents a world composed of island territories coded by the names of Palestinian regions and cities.
Archipelago, explains Attia, highlights that “military occupation became a constructed geography,” in Palestine, “politics of occupation have become systematized and completely reshape the physical environment for Palestinians.”
Exhibited as part of Sentences on the banks and other activities, a group exhibition in Amman, Jordan, Attia separates historical Palestine into pieces, projecting the contemporary Palestinian geographical reality, a nation broken up by Israeli separation barriers and military checkpoints into occupied territorial bits.
Archipelago reflects “on the various forms of geopolitical isolation that Israel created for Palestinians,” outlines Attia.
As an installation Attia constructs a world map via printed metal cutouts, arranged on a large steel grid, Palestine’s map reinterpreted, displayed over Amman, a city largely inhabited by refugees displaced from historic Palestine, resting only an hour away to the west.
Qalqilyah, a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, becomes an physical island in the installation. Today Qalqilyah is largely surrounded by Israel’s apartheid wall, political geography has turned the city into an island, separated from traditional agricultural lands and other Palestinian communities.
Archipelago maps out key points of reflection on Palestine in relation to the world today via artistic cartography.
As voices joining the international solidarity movement with the Palestinian struggle for freedom grow, inspired by the global grassroots campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, many point to Palestine as a test case for the morality of major global institutions based in traditional centres of global power.
“The United Nations will be judged now and in the future by whether it contributes, at long last, to the long-deferred realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination,” outlined Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories, to the UN in October 2010.
Archipelago points to Palestine as a world symbol, illuminating both the contemporary territorial geography of Israeli occupation and the emerging global consciousness on Palestine’s anti-colonial struggle for freedom.
Stefan Christoff is a journalist, musician and activist based in Montreal. He can be found at twitter.com/spirodon.