Unrecognized Games, an exhibition of photographs by artist Mohamed Badarne, will open in both Gaza and Haifa next week.
Although Badarne may not be able to visit his fellow Palestinians in Gaza, his images have been able to travel, showing viewers a little of the lives of children growing up in the so-called “unrecognized” Palestinian villages of the Naqab (Negev).
According to a statement by Badarne on the exhibition’s Facebook page, “the power of the show lies in the joy the children are capable of generating, despite the harsh conditions.” The exhibition will open on Monday (30 March), which is known as Land Day, a commemoration of when Israeli forces opened fire on a 1976 strike, killing six Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Located just across the boundary between Gaza and present-day Israel, Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Naqab face having their homes bulldozed time and again by the Israeli authorities. In the case of one village, al-Araqib, such destruction has taken place dozens of times. The Israeli authorities are trying to displace the village’s inhabitants in order to create a park.
Badarne, who describes himself as a human rights activist as well as a photographer, and who has also worked as a teacher, movingly documents the ability of children in the Naqab villages to defy the ongoing destruction. Perched in trees or racing around in superhero constumes, these Bedouin youngsters find ways to play in even the bleakest of situations.
Mohamed Badarne is a well-established Palestinian photographer whose work has been shown at the International Labour Organization in Geneva and in several Middle Eastern countries.
His 2013 exhibition May You Come Back Safely, which was shown at Darat al-Funun in Amman, Jordan, documented the lives of Palestinian construction workers. After several friends were killed and injured, Badarneh started to research the issue, finding that sixty such workers are killed every year on Israeli building sites.
In a defiant interview in the video (above), Badarne insists that Palestinian artists should feel that “we don’t need a stamp of approval from Israel, and we don’t have to be an embellishment for Israeli ‘democracy.’”
Unrecognized Games opens next week at the Arab Cultural Center in Haifa and the Windows Gallery in Gaza.