The Palestinians Making the Case for a Creative Renaissance

From Ramallah to Gaza, with love.

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“In the face of erasure, creativity and storytelling becomes an act of survival,” Palestinian fashion entrepreneur and activist Yasmeen Mjalli said in one of her lectures. By erasure, she was signaling the memoricide that Palestine has been suffering for over 70 years. 

The nation has seen its culture, indigenous practices and traditions violated by illegal occupation, forming a threat to the preservation of collective Palestinian identity. But as Mjalli states, creativity can be a tool of resistance. And the Palestinian creative scene is a true testament to it.

The underground music scene has been thriving with a wave of rappers and DJs, attracting the likes of music platform Boiler Room for a historic show at the heart of Ramallah in late 2018. The music scene has only continued to thrive since then. 

But Palestinian creativity doesn’t stop there. The nation is booming. From fashion designers to visual artists and filmmakers that are making the case for the Palestinian identity, there’s a lot to put on your radar and we’re here to celebrate them. From Ramallah to Gaza, these are the ones you should keep on your radar.

DJ Sama 

When it comes to Palestine’s underground music scene, Sama Abdulhadi can’t go without mention. The 31-year-old is one of the first DJs and electro music producers to emerge from the region. Abdulhadi has made a name for herself internationally playing all over the world. She also runs the publishing company Awyav which is dedicated to representing independent artists from the region.

BLTNM

The independent record label and collective BLTNM is actually a trio of Palestinian producers and rappers Shabjdeed, Al Nather and Shabmouri. Hailing from Ramallah, the collective is reshaping the sound of the city, working with a growing community of contributors such as El Rass, Synaptik, Haykal and female producer, vocalist and DJ Makimakkuk.

Meera Adnan Albaba

 

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“Fashion is fluid, unconventional, powerful, and so is the culture of the new generation in Gaza who are trying to challenge both political restrictions and social conventions”, designer Meera Adnan told us in a 2019 interview. With a rebellious spirit at the heart of her practice, the Gaza-based creative is exploring the forgotten past of the city as a form of resistance to the illegal occupation of Palestine. Her eponymous brand plays with the ideas of femininity and masculinity with pieces that vary from puff sleeved-dresses to oversized blazers.

Larissa Sansour

Conceptual artist Larissa Sansour’s photographs and films, which play between the real and the imaginary, have made it to solo exhibitions from Copenhagen and Beirut to Liverpool and Cardiff. Reflective of the Palestinian struggle, her work dwells on the ideas of inherited trauma, exile and collective memory. She represented Denmark at the 58th Venice Biennale with her experimental film In Vitro, which was set in a ravaged city of Bethlehem after an eco-disaster.

Shukri Lawrence

 

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The East-Jerusalem native Shukri Lawrence is the man behind queer streetwear label Trashy Clothing. The subversive designer challenges Arab stereotypes and identities with his DIY approach mixing camp and kitsch aesthetics. His creations are a reclamation of what ‘trashy’ fashion means in an anti-classicism, anti-homogenization movement.

Yasmeen Mjalli

Yasmeen Mjalli is the founder of Ramallah-based label Nöl collective. In her fight against socio-cultural and political injustices in Palestine, the designer creates pieces rooted in equity-centered design, placing the welfare of the producers, artisans, and embroiderers involved at the heart of it all. Locally manufactured in the West Bank and Gaza, the political, feminist, and environmental fashion collective is on a mission to re-humanize fashion in a world where transparency about the people who make our clothes and the impact those clothes have on the environment is pretty rare.

Ameen Nayfeh 

You might already be familiar with the director’s debut feature 200 Meters which premiered in the 77th Venice Film Festival. The film, which tells the story of a Palestinian family that are only 200 metres apart, yet separated by the apartheid wall, earned Nayfeh five honours at El Gouna Film Festival. The filmmaker was imminently catapulted to fame across the region and beyond, with only three films under his belt so far.

Nermeen and Nisreen Abudail

The Abdudail sisters are behind art collective Naqsh. Inspired by their childhood memories, the duo traced back their heritage to the hidden stories that Palestinian embroidery has carried throughout the years within its weaves. Instead of thread and fabrics, the sisters draw patterns from the colourful and geometric motifs into their sculptures of marble, wood, brass and steel. Every piece implements the practise of Naqsh (which means ‘engraving’ in Arabic) as a medium to communicate the untold stories of women embroiderers.

Faissal El-Malak

Based in Dubai, El-Malak’s designs are always rooted in traditions. From Yemeni handwoven textiles to handwoven fabrics from the Medina of Tunis and cotton jacquards of Upper Egypt, the fashion designer draws inspiration from artisanal crafts across the region. He was also the winner of the 2017 Vogue Arabia DDFC Fashion Prize in the women’s ready-to-wear category. But El-Malak goes well beyond fashion designing ceramics, art installations and more.

Shirien Damra

 

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Damra is the illustrator behind the colorful portrait of George Floyd that went viral last June. A Palestinian Muslim immigrant from a family of refugees, Damra has used her illustrations to stand in solidarity with countless social injustices and minority communities, including her own.

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