‘In the case of Palestine, we are used to lockdowns/curfews given the apartheid regime we live under here. We’re also very creative with the limitations we face. For example, there are designers in Gaza currently producing ventilators out of need. Although my answers suggest the limitation the Palestinian designers face pre and post COVID-19, I want to note here that it is important to also not fetishize designers from Palestine simply because they are Palestinian. We want to take a seat at the table in the global design scene for being good designers’, says Dima Srouji, Designer and Architect,Ramallah, Palestine.
Today, we celebrate World Day for Safety and Health at Work. How are makers, designers, and creatives dealing with the global pandemic? Tell us about Gaza.
Unfortunately, the direct collaboration we usually enjoy with the craftsmen has currently halted. We’re unable to get together to produce works. What I’ve been doing in my case at least I’ve been using this time to design, experiment with new materials like clay. I’ve also been trying to pick up new skills like sewing, for example. I think this time has proven to be quite meditative for me which I feel very lucky to experience. I know so many people are struggling during this time. In the case of Palestine, we’re used to lockdowns/curfews given the apartheid regime we live under here. We’re also very creative with the limitations we face. For example, there are designers in Gaza currently producing ventilators out of need. The Israeli occupation only allowed two hundred tests into Gaza despite it being one of the most populated cities in the region. Gaza’s population is 1.8 million people. We have to think creatively during this time.
How can they contribute to an after COVID-19 Palestine?
An after COVID-19 Palestine might not look very different than occupied Palestine. We will continue to have travel restrictions/checkpoints etc. This is something that the Palestinian design scene is heavily affected by. The virus has just been a dent into what has already affected us in the last 80 years of occupation. A contribution to post COVID-19 Palestine would be a more virtually connected Palestine that might go beyond physical borders.
As an excuse to connect Palestinians in the diaspora with Palestinians in Palestine, I’m curating a collection (Here and There: A Palestinian Collection introducing Palestine on Adorno) . I would love for this virtual collaboration and virtual exhibition to continue as we move forward post COVID-19. Although my answers suggest the limitation the Palestinian designers face pre and post COVID-19, I want to note here that it is important to also not fetishize designers from Palestine simply because they are Palestinian. We want to take a seat at the table in the global design scene for being good designers.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a multidisciplinary designer based in Ramallah, Palestine but spent many years living nomadically between different cities. I earned my Master of Architecture degree from Yale University and a Bachelor of Architecture from Kingston University in London. Because of longing for home for many years, my return to Palestine influenced my practice. I’m really interested in the concept of politics and place, displacement of people and objects, and the importance of revealing hidden narratives. Through my experimental work at Yale University under the supervision of Peter Eisenman and Greg Lynn, I found myself trying to translate my beliefs regarding objects not being just blank hollow shells but rather be of an inherent power that can draw people in and alter perceptions. I have also experimented with contemporary forms using computer software and 3D printing techniques to translate those beliefs and ideas but was restricted by how sterile and scientific the end results turned out to be as if the objects were left silent. Hollow Forms, a glassblowing project I founded here in Palestine alongside the Twam family glassblowers, was an experimental project that allowed me to explore the way in which objects can embed memory and have the agency to tell stories, especially ones that have been rendered invisible over generations like the history of glassblowing.