UAE: Photos of Palestine life sold for over Dh200,000 in fundraiser

The sale which runs till December 15, has managed to raise more than Dh200,000 and sold more than 500 prints all across the world

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 9:07 AM

Last updated: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 4:42 PM

Last year, Palestinian photographer Majd Arandas was forced to sell his camera to make ends meet. However, he continued to take photos with his phone. He had hoped to collect enough money to buy a new camera and dreamt of “a day when life and beauty return to Gaza”. Last month, he was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Now, one of his photos is being sold by a UAE-based photography community group to support other artists like him.

Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) has launched a print sale selling photographs by Arab photographers to support the visual storytellers in Palestine. From the watermelon that grows in their backyard to their grandmother’s wedding dress, the photo prints offer glimpses of photographers’ everyday lives in the country, both before and after the Gaza offensive.

“While we were very appreciative of all the efforts many UAE based businesses and organisations were conducting, we wanted to have a print sale that supported the photo and video journalists that were documenting Israeli atrocities,” said Mohamed Somji, Director of GPP. “This sale was unveiled to honour Majd’s legacy. By supporting Palestinian artists, we hope to foster more image-makers like Majd, and provide them with what they need, to some day document the beauty around them.”

The sale which runs till December 15, has managed to raise more than Dh200,000 and sold over 500 prints all across the world.

Somji recalled the last voice note that Majd sent, days before his demise. Majd had said, “I wish for a day when life and beauty return to Gaza, and for peace to spread throughout all of Palestinian land. I wish to photograph beautiful things... cities in the West Bank, cities in Occupied Palestine, and visit many cities across the world and capture beautiful things there — beauty that the citizens in Gaza are kept from witnessing because of the Israeli occupation, whether it's in their own homeland or elsewhere in the world!”

Mohamed Somji
Mohamed Somji

Important initiative

Somji explained why this was an important initiative for the GPP community. “As the genocide unfolds before our eyes, in Gaza and the West Bank, courageous Palestinian photographers, visual storytellers and citizen journalists are working tirelessly to document the relentless attacks on their land, on their loved ones, and on their very existence,” he said.

“Now, more than ever, it is imperative to amplify Palestinian narratives, and to support those currently documenting the ongoing atrocities. We are launching this print sale to support these artists and image-makers as they wield their cameras against injustice and bring clarity to the fog of war.”

All proceeds from the print sale will go to support the continued work of photographers and artists and aid their recovery from the ongoing conflict. Somji said that this kind of support was essential. “Within the regional visual community, we have an unfortunately ever-dwindling resource of image-makers forging narratives from within the actively besieged areas of Palestine,” he said. “Our focus is to directly support our colleagues currently working under unimaginable conditions, bearing witness to unspeakable atrocities with their cameras.”

The group has posted a detailed breakdown of how each photo print is priced and how much of it will be contributed to the artist. The profits from the sales will go to the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, who will then distribute it among Palestinian photographers.

Impactful images

For Somji, each photo was a reminder of the beauty of Palestine but his favourite photo is one that Majd shot of his grandmother’s wedding dress. Titled Bahjat, after his 85-year-old grandmother, the photo shows a beautiful white gown with its intricate embroidery. Usually colourful, the colour and style on Palestinian women’s dresses symbolizes a different city.

Another photo that is dear to Somji depicts a small watermelon in the backyard of photographer Maen Hammad’s grandmother in West Bank. For decades, the watermelon has served as a symbol of Palestinian resilience. It first emerged after the Six-Day War in 1967, when the Israel regime banned public displays of the Palestinian flag. Instead Palestinians began using the watermelon as an expression of their identity, as the fruit's colours mirror those of the country’s flag.

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