Lajee Center Inaugurates 'Our Land, Our Life' on the Occasion of Land Day

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Amaya El-Orzza/PNN Exclusive

The Lajee Center, a community-based grassroots creative cultural center located in Aida refugee camp, inaugurated a photo exhibition in the Peace Center of Bethlehem on the occasion of Land Day. The exhibition, named ‘Our Land, Our Life’ shows photographs of different areas of Palestine, and the connection of the people to the land, but also the different threats to it.

The exhibition opened on Saturday 29th of March and it will be held for three days. ‘Our Land, Our Life’ has been organized by the Lajee Center in partnership with Hoping Foundation and in cooperation with the photographer Ryan Rodrick Beiler. The exhibition is composed by 30 photographs taken by the photographers Mohammad Alazza and Ryan Rodrick Beiler.

The former is the Director of the Lajee Center’s Arts & Media Unit, but also an experienced photographer and filmmaker. His work focuses on the West Bank, showing different cities and people, and also the fights and clashes that take place around the Apartheid Wall. Ryan Rodrick Beiler works as a photographer for the AIC, MCC and ActiveStills Collective, originally from the United States but has been living in Palestine for almost four years. Their work shows how Palestinians hold on to their land despite the continuous attempts by the occupation to confiscate it and control it.

The opening of the exhibition was attended by a great amount of people, including Khaled Al-Azraq and other recently released prisoners who have spent more than twenty years in Israeli jails, the staff of Lajee Center and members of its board, representatives of local institutions and organizations, a large number of international activists and photojournalists from different news agencies.

The exhibition opened at noon and Amahl Bishara, long-time volunteer at Lajee Center, delivered the inaugural speech, which was followed by addresses to the audience by Salah Ajarma, Director of the Lajee Center, and the two photographers.

Mohammed Alazza told PNN that “It is very important for us Palestinians, both inside and outside Palestine to celebrate this day, by planting trees and doing different activities to commemorate this day. This is why we are here today making this photo exhibition, with images from all Palestine, from different places, and talking about the land.”

 

On 30 March 1976, thousands of people belonging to the Palestinian minority in Israel gathered to protest some plans by the Israeli government to expropriate 60,000 dunams of Arab-owned land in the Galilee. In the resulting confrontations with the Israeli Occupation Forces, six Palestinians were killed, hundreds wounded, and hundreds ended up in jail. In the following years, those events have become consecrated in the Palestinian memory as Land Day.

Amahl Bishara said that for her, being originally from the Galilee, this day was especially important and that she was very glad to be part of this exhibition commemorating Land Day. She also emphasized the importance of bringing together photographs from all Palestine.

She explained how both sides of the Green Line suffer from similar racist and colonialist policies, repression and aggressions, and this is why is important to include all of Palestine in the exhibition.  She also said, "We have the right to live and build and grow away from the occupation and its practices, and commemorating Land Day gives us unity and strength to continue clinging to our land, despite the actions of the occupation.”

Salah Ajarma, Director of the Lajee Center, explained that with this exhibition he wanted “to show people how Palestinians take care of their land, and also to show what is happening in all historic Palestine because people often do not know, or cannot know what is happening in other parts of their homeland. The Apartheid Wall or the blockage in Gaza make these things difficult.” He concluded saying that “Our land is our life, and this is what this exhibition is about”.

Salah also thanked everyone who attended the exhibition and those who helped made it possible. He showed his appreciation to the organizations and people who have cooperated and funded the exhibition, and who have been supporting Lajee Center and the Arts & Media Unit for years now. He added that this exhibition will travel abroad to show as many people as possible the reality of Palestine.

The photographer Ryan Rodrick Beiler talked about his first experiences in Aida refugee camp and with the Lajee Center, how he started learning about the reality of the people there and their life. He also said that "This exhibition shows the relationship between people and the land... and the relationship between living on the ground, and the conflict on the ground.” He explained that his photographs show the everyday life of Palestinians, which includes both their relationship with the land but also the threats to the land and to the people.

Khaled Al-Azraq, partner of the Lajee Center and recently released from Israeli jails after more than twenty years in jail, talked to PNN about the importance of this exhibition. He said these events are very effective in transferring and showing the reality and suffering of the Palestinian people, adding that he considers photography as the most important expression of the live under occupation.  

He continued saying that commemorating Land Day helps successive generations keep their memory alive and brings news hopes to generations full of desperation and frustration. Furthermore, he thanked the Lajee Center for its initiatives and activities that contribute to the education of different generations of Palestinians, especially of the young children. He also thanked Mohammad Alazza and Ryan Rodrick Beiler for their photographs reflecting different aspects of Palestinian life.

After the opening of the exhibition, the attendees had the chance to see the different photographs and to talk to Mohammad Alazza and Ryan Rodrick Beiler about their work. The exhibition will be open for three days in commemoration of Land Day, which is today. 

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