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From Checkpoint bag to Blacksac
من شنطة الحاجز إلى البلاك ساك Al Quds, 2015 – Al Khalil, 2021
Call for solidarity
نداء للتضامن Until liberation
Masters programme Disarming design
ماجستير معهد ساندبرج Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, 2020 — 2022
Design for Disarming times
التصميم لأوقاتنا المجرِّدة Onomatopee publishers, 2020
Life of the Palestinian rug
ورشة البساط الفلسطيني Birzeit, September - October 2020
Facemask from Gaza
قناع الوجه من غزة August 2020
Hosh Jalsa
حوش جلسة Birzeit, 2018 – 2020
Marketing workshop
ورشة التسويق Birzeit, January – February 2020
Bags Prince Claus Awards
حقائب صندوق الأمير كلوز Amsterdam, 4 December 2019
Crossing Boundaries lecture
محاضرة "اجتياز الحدود" VCUQatar, Doha, 19-22 November 2019
Intimate terrains
إقتراب الآفاق Birzeit, 21–29 august 2019
The real and the absent
جسور من الماضي Birzeit, June – September 2019
Young artisans market
سوق الحرفيّين الشّباب Birzeit, 2019
Reworlding Ramallah
إعادة قولبة العالم : رام الله Birzeit, January – April 2019
Thought-provoking December gifts
هدايا محفّزة للفكر في فترة الأعياد Droog, Amsterdam, 6 December 2018 – 6 January 2019
Collective thinking
تفكير جماعي Hosh Jalsa, Birzeit, November – December 2018
My house is your house
البيت بيتك Design Museum Ghent, 16 February – 15 April 2018
Nieuwe Instituut
معرض نيوي انستتوت Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, november 2017
Amman Design Week
أسبوع عمان للتصميم Darat al Funun, Amman, October 2017
Dream versus reality
الحلم مقابل الواقع Amman, September 2017
Dream Defenders
مجموعة "دريم ديفندرز" Ramallah, 17 August 2017
Design Museum Cologne
متحف التصميم، كولونيا Cologne, 14 May 2017
Henry Van De Velde Awards
جائزة هنري فان دي فيلد Bozar, Brussels, January – February 2017
Welcome home
الدار دارك Ramallah, 8 – 30 October 2016
Hosh Qandah, create-shop 2016
حوش قندح، ورشة التصميم ٢٠١٥ Ramallah, August – September 2016
Gaza & Jerusalem, create-shop 2015
ورشة التصميم من غزة للقدس Gaza & Jerusalem, 26 August – 8 September 2015
Qalandiya international
قلنديا الدولي IAAP, Ramallah, 27 October – 15 November 2014
Ramallah, Create-shop 2014
ورشة التصميم ٢٠١٤ Ramallah, Bethlehem, 21 October – 7 November 2014
Eye on Palestine
العين على فلسطين KVS, Brussels, 24 March – 5 April 2014
Conflict & design
التصميم و الصراع C-Mine, Genk, 15 December 2013 – 9 March 2014
Bethlehem, create-shop 2013
ورشة التصميم ٢٠١٣ Bethlehem, 30 Sep – 12 Oct 2013
Ramallah, create-shop 2012
ورشة التصميم ٢٠١٢ Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, 1 – 15 September 2012
Subjective atlas of Palestine
أطلس فلسطين الذاتي Ramallah, 2007
Collaborative projects
مشاريع تشاركيّة

From Checkpoint bag to Blacksac
من شنطة الحاجز إلى البلاك ساك


Design and development of a unique bag leads to a new design label
Al Quds, 2015 – Al Khalil, 2021
The Checkpoint bag that was developed during the 2015 create-shop in Jerusalem has grown from being a single design into the launch of a new, Palestinian design label by architect and designer Areej Ashhab. The design label is motivated by the struggle for freedom of movement in Palestine.
  • Monika Grütze, Areej Ashhab and Florian Mecklenburg developing the design of the bag, Al Ma’mal foundation for contemporary art, Jerusalem, 2015

 

Originally designed during our 2015 create-shop in Jerusalem, the Checkpoint bag narrates the struggle for freedom of movement in the constricted livelihood in Palestine. Designers Areej Ashhab, Monika Grütze and Florian Mecklenburg joined skills to reflect on the disproportionate and oppressive dimension that checkpoints take up in the daily life of Palestinians throughout the West Bank. During the create-shop, the designers couldn’t shake off the humiliating experience of the Qalandia checkpoint.

Thousands of Palestinians have to cross the military checkpoints to perform essential activities or access basic health and education services. These are erected by the Israeli military occupation, and are purposely designed to make people wait in cramped lines inside ‘hi-tech’ cages to prepare their identification cards for inspection, remove metallic items from their bags, and then go through demeaning ‘security’ checks. These checkpoints fragment and divide the geography of Palestine and operate hand-in-hand with Zionist settlements, eating up land and resources. This suffocates the daily life of Palestinian communities who move between the segmented parts of their homeland, and puts their bodies and private items into constant vulnerability.

  • Florian testing the first prototype of the bag, Al Ma’mal foundation for contemporary art, Jerusalem, 2015

Areej Ashhab suggested to design a ‘Checkpoint bag’; a leather backpack that reflects on the complex layers of mobility in Palestine, with a hidden message revealing itself only for Israeli soldiers on their X-ray monitor; a silhouette of the ‘right of return’ keys (haqq al-awda).

The design does not simply adapt or surrender to the reality of the Occupation; rather, it challenges it by empowering the carrier. It creates an understanding of what Palestinians have to go through on a daily basis. The bag becomes a design charged with meaning, claiming the right to freedom of movement and return to the homeland.

  • Ashraf Zatari, Ghadeer Dajani and Areej Ashhab discussing the design of the checkpoint bag. Al Khalil/Hebron, 2018

 

Together with Areej, Disarming design from Palestine went on a quest of the most skilled local leather artisan. With Ashraf Zatari from the Jelld Leather workshop in Al-Khalil (Hebron), we collaboratively refined the design of the bag. After another prototype, the first edition of the bags was taken in production and distributed by Disarming design from Palestine.

The bag is a waterproof, quality leather product which endures daily trips and activities. It has multi-purpose pockets, can safely hold a laptop, and integrates different carrying possibilities in its neat lines design. Through the extra handle on the bottom, one can swiftly turn the bag and access the external pockets. These have different sizes and shapes to store items.

The UK-based design, crafts and architecture writer Grant Gibson praises the design for its ‘thought provoking quality’: “It’s only when you examine it more closely that the acuity of thinking behind it is revealed.” (See: OnOffice, 8 december 2017)

  • Areej Ashhab about the concepts behind the design. Camera by Florian Mecklenburg (2015) and Mariette Auvray (2019), edited by Areej Ashhab (2020)

In 2021, Areej Ashhab initiated a new design label, called theblacksac. Catalysed by the Checkpoint bag, it morphs into a full-fledged design label focused on high-quality, handmade leather products which are entirely designed, sourced and manufactured in Palestine: “With the rebranding of the bag, the designer Areej wanted to give a new meaning to the Checkpoint Bag design. She wanted to free it from the architecture of occupation and the humiliating experience of the checkpoint crossing. theblacksac aims at empowering the carrier with dynamic designs and turning the experience of moving around in Palestine into a playful journey.”

Explore the new label, find out where the bags are locally sold and be the first to discover new designs — and don’t miss their developments via Instagram.

 

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The global digital news and storytelling channel AJ+ featured Areej’ story and work. The video reached tens of thousands of people and fed discussions, engagement and created a huge visibility for the new label. The design proved to be more than a ‘functional’ and consciously made product, it showed to be a way to empower conversations about the struggle for freedom of movement in Palestine.

  • Al-Ittihad Newspaper (UAE), 8 September 2021