Last Updated: 10/19/2004
The Sakakini Center
The Sakakini Center has at different times received funding from the Japanese Government, the United Nations Development Program, the Ford Foundation, the European Union and Dutch benefactors - hardly radical organizations in the grand scheme of things.
About a fifteen minute walk from the street vendors and businesses of the
downtown Palestinian cultural capital of Ramallah, is a dangerous subversive
according to the Israeli authorities. So much so that they in
fact in 2002 raided the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center and according to the
Miami Herald "seized a computer and a cellphone, broke dozens of windows, swept
books off shelves, peppered walls with shrapnel and bullets, spit pumpkin seeds
on the floor
and allegedly stole 3,700 shekels."
educated Director Adila Laidi said at the time, "It was just vandalism, part of
a conscious desire to ruin everything Palestinian. Once you
do that, you go and methodically destroy every institution.
Subconsciously, they are dreaming about shoving the whole Palestinian people out
In Occupied Palestine, it is as if you live a dehumanized
existence from the day you're born. You are uneqal. You feel it
everyday in how power is exercised. That relationship is rarely
altered. You are second class and relegated to a Bantustan-like
existence. When the people in power talk peace, you see the situation
deteriorate. You see loved ones die, killed off by security forces.
You face the Separation Wall and are denied entry into Israel to see family
members. You learn to hate because you're isolated and you know nothing
Today you can still see the broken glass of the picture, the bullet
holes and a broken door left in the board room, curated like an art
exhibit. The Sakakini Center has at different times received funding from
the Japanese Government, the United Nations Development Program, the Ford
Foundation, the European Union and Dutch benefactors - hardly radical
organizations in the grand scheme of things.
Director Adila Laidi tells
me that the role of culture evolves over time and raises to the public questions
like the normalcy of the Israeli Occupation. If Edward Said and Noam
Chomsky argue that the role of the intellectual is to speak truth to power and
Bill Moyers says the same of journalism, then what Laidi is
arguing is much
the same for art and culture in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
the office next door, the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, known as the
conscience of his people, is working on his literary review, Al Karmel, as he
since he used to edit it in Lebanon.
Laidi says that since the
outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, there has been no normal life.
And that as the role of art and culture develop as a means of expression in the
context of the Occupation and the current Intifada, the Sakakini Cultural Center
has a duty to reach beyond the middle, educated classes.
Her view is that
music, culture, art and literature still has the power to lift people up to
dream and imagine when their humanity has been reduced to an identity
card. And by giving people access to these forms of expression, it can
also reduce the gaps between those who are here and isolated with those who are
in the Palestinian diaspora and the outside world. She sees it as a place where
people can channel their anger and creativity.
Laidi sees the Khalil
Sakakini Cultural Center as a place to nurture Palestinian visual artists.
She was also involved with curating the controversial 100
which memorialized the first 100 Palestinians which died in the Second
In the introduction to the book, Laidi as the Editor writes,
"one of the project's goals was to give back to each shaheed (martyr) his or her
individuality...[hence] each [was given] his or her own personal space,
featuring his or her name,
photograph and personal object. The Shuhada [are]
also presented in order of age. The objects and photographs... speak for
themselves, on their own terms, going beyond death to recreate a life without
the clutter of text or obtrusive display devices." The exhibit has gone abroad
to several countries and generated much
For now, the
Sakakini Cultural Center is limited in their ability to go beyond Ramallah,
hampered by the same security restrictions as everyone else.
says, "We need to have more rooting in the community that does not currently
consume culture, and have more popular forms which they can
This is the seond piece written by Am Johal is a Canadian freelance writer just returned from Israel. See http://www.monitor.upeace.org/innerpg.cfm?id_article=200