The Subjective atlas of Palestine was the output of a workshop of Palestinian artists held at the International Academy of Art in Ramallah. The artists from Gaza were involved through Internet and e-mail, as they are forcefully not allowed to travel to Ramallah. The atlas came into being on a initial question of the NGO ICCO (NL), that Subjective Editions turned into an open invitation to Khaled Hourani, the director of the academy in Ramallah. They hosted the project and invited Palestinian participants from all regions and generations to submit their visual voices.
The intention was to produce an atlas that was much more than a set of maps, but rather a collection of visual and textual ‘mappings’ of the lived reality of Palestine – social, cultural, geographical and political. The subject matter of the Atlas reflects this eclectic and precarious lived reality, covering topics as apparently incongruous as traditional embroidery, chickpeas, print media, road signs, natural landscapes, currency and national flags. Yet, taken in its entirety, the Atlas offers a remarkable and at times profound collection of vignettes of life in Palestine. More than romanticizing Palestinian culture, it confronts the daily realities of occupation, with astuteness, creativity and humour.
Khaled Hourani, Artistic Director of the Academy, invited all participants and hosted the workshop at the academy where h felt that it fitted well into the Academy’s educational and academic experimental contemporary arts program.
With the engagement of the International Academy of Art Palestine, the support of ICCO, and re-designed by Munther Jaber, we were able to re-print the book in Palestine in a bilingual version. It was available in local stores and got broadly distributed, amongst others by the Palestinian authority who gave it as a relational gift.
The Subjective atlas of Palestine was awarded as one of the Best Designed Books of 2007, by the Dutch ‘Bestverzorgde Boeken’, juryreport:
“Sometimes when you come to judge a book you capitulate straight away purely because of its subject. The Subjective Atlas of Palestine is a case in point. What country appeals more to the imagination than Palestine!? Not least because of the constant stream of harrowing images that the media dish up to us almost daily. It is a tragedy that has been holding our collective conscience hostage ever since 1948. In effect, we are now barely able to form any kind of picture of what day-to-day life in Palestine is really like.
That brings us straight to what is special about this atlas, which puts the one-sided approach of Western media up for discussion and at the same time gives us a picture of the present state of the country. We see everyday life as it is lived, from the daily bread to the cultural, social and political agenda. Palestinian artists, photographers and designers give a picture of their country that is informative, confrontational, but above all stimulating. So much information in a modest little book whose design is itself almost invisible.
There are no expansive gestures or clever printing tricks here: that is not what this book is about. Excellent picture editing means that the qualitatively very variable pictorial matter takes on an unobtrusive and almost natural unity and coherence. The spacious margins create an impression of openness. Format and typography are restrained yet in no way flat. The rounded corners and the fact that the running text is printed in a mild grey add extra emphasis to the friendly character of the design. A remarkable document that speaks softly to convey an important message.”
Read reviews in the press:
— IK HEB RESPECT GEKREGEN VOOR GRETTA, Elda Dorren, NRC Handelsblad, September 2007
— A NEW ATLAS FOR PALESTINE, Adri Nieuwhof, 7 October 2007
— DE SUBJECTIVE ATLAS OF PALESTINE IS EEN KLEIN JUWEELTJE! Nieuws Nederlands Palestina Komitee, 20 November 2007
— SUBJECTIVE ATLAS OF PALESTINE WINS PRESTIGIOUS DUTCH AWARD, Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 16 July 2008
— A COUNTRY IN FRAGMENTS, Roger Sheety, Palestine Chronicle, May 2010
— ASSERTING THE RIGHT TO NARRATE, Arena of Speculation, 28 May 2011
— MAPPING ISRAEL-PALESTINE, Review Essay, Helga tawil-souri, Political Geography, volume 31, issue 1, January 2012
The Subjective Atlas of Palestine is an initiative of the Department for Democratisation and Peacebuilding of ICCO in the Netherlands and Dutch designer Annelys de Vet. The publication, that started with a workshop was made possible in close collaboration with the International Academy of Arts, Palestine. In April 2007 three Dutch designers and an artist visited the Academy to work with more than two dozen Palestinian designers, artists, photographers, architects and students.
EDITOR: Annelys de Vet
CURATOR: Khaled Hourani (International Academy of Arts Palestine)
CONTRIBUTORS: Sameh Abboushi, Majd Abdel Hamid, Senan Abdelqader, Mohammed Amous, Tayseer Barakat, Sami Bandak, Baha Boukhari, Mahmoud Darwish (poem), Reem Fadda, Shadi Habib Allah, Majdi Hadid, Shuruq Harb, Dima Hourani, Khaled Hourani Munther Jaber, Khaled Jarrar, Abed Al Jubeh, Hassan Khader (foreword), Yazan Khalili, Suleiman Mansour, Basel Al Maqousi, Sani P. Meo, Inas Moussa, Hafez Omar, Hosni Radwan, Awatef Rumiyah, Ahmad Saleem, Shareef Sarhan, Majed Shala, Sami Shana’ah, Maissoon Sharkawi, Mamoun Shrietch, Lena Sobeh, Mohanad Yaqubi, Inass Yassin