Bisan

By Toby Millman

Miami, Florida, USA

Bisan


TEXT READS: Many of the shebab (youth) had a hard time remembering my name, so I told them to just call me Fatima. The next day, everyone was calling me Fatima, even guys who weren’t around the day before, so I told them, “No, that was yesterday, today my name is Khadija”. On the third day, the shebab surrounded me first thing in the morning, begging to know if my name was still Khadija or if it was something else today. I told them that today, they could choose my name. After a few were voiced, Wujdan stepped in to mediate the discussion, apparently the shebab were suggesting names that were “not beautiful”. In the end, the name we could all agree upon was Bisan. And so on Friday, I was Bisan.*

*Six thousand Arabs were expelled from the city of Bisan in 1948. Many were loaded onto trucks and taken across the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Today, no Palestinian residents of Bisan remain.

ABOUT THIS PIECE: This is one piece from a larger series of cut paper works, based on a two-month travel to Palestine in 2006. It aims to tell the rich, the funny, and the sad stories that I witnessed while bringing attention to a resilient culture that is subjected to the injustice of the ongoing occupation.

The series, currently composed of 16 works, combines the photographs I took and the notes I kept while staying in Jerusalem and traveling to the West Bank. When I returned to the U.S., I found that I had an urgent need to relay every moment to my friends and family. Fighting the possibility that my memories would fade away and disappear, I went through my notebook and wrote down my memories in the form of short vignettes. I then edited the photographs to pair with the text. I translated these photographic and narrative moments to cut-out works on paper. Everything I saw and experienced was filtered through my own politicized lens, and I often found it difficult to disassociate some of the simplest moments from the overarching political arena or humanitarian crisis. As individual pieces, they relay small moments as I stand up to Israeli soldiers, joke about atrocity, embarrass myself at checkpoints or attempt to hide my identity as a Jewish-American. As a series, the work intertwines personal experience, collective history and traditional storytelling to tackle controversial topics, reshape stereotypes or simply observe. This is one of two works that addresses the Nakba specifically. The series can be viewed at http://www.tobymillman.com/vignettes/index.html

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Toby Millman is a photographer, printmaker, sound collector and storyteller. Much of her work explores ideas of mapping, borders, identity, and movement as they relate to geopolitics in Palestine. She has recently returned to the United States after living in Ramallah for seven months where she was learning Arabic, volunteering, and recording personal narratives from everyday Palestinians.

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