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‘Sea of Stories’:  From Production Awards to the Qalandiya International Festival

‘Sea of Stories’: From Production Awards to the Qalandiya International Festival

Palestinian artist, Hana Sleiman, is taking part in the third edition of the Qalandiya International Festival with Sea of Stories: Voyages of the Palestinian Archives, an exhibition produced with the support of the Culture Resource’s Production Awards program. The exhibition opened on 11 October at the Dar El-Nimer Center for Arts and Culture (in Clemenceau, Beirut).

Sea of Stories reveals the various forms of dispersion across the Mediterranean of the Palestinian community in Lebanon and their imagined return. The exhibition seeks to explore these voyages, trace their paths and open a space for discussing what ‘return’ signifies to the Palestinian community today in Lebanon.”

About the starting point and idea of her project, Sleiman explains: “The ‘Sea of Stories: Voyages of the Palestinian Archives’ project began as an attempt to write a part of the history of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon during the 1970s. We wanted archival material, as historians generally do, but we couldn’t find the archives. So we tried to trace their whereabouts. The absence of an archive poses larger and more comprehensive questions than those connected with any particular historical epoch: What is the Palestinian archive? What happened to its pieces? Why is it so out of reach? How can we write history and build narratives in the absence of primary sources? What are the ramifications of the archive’s absence on the Palestinian story, in particular, and the practice of history, in general? The search for  answers to these questions led to a reconstruction of geographical and political paths that began in Beirut and passed through Haifa, Cyprus, Algeria and Rome. This map animates the stories of the archive and casts into relief its absence, whether that absence was accidentally or deliberately caused.”

The bi-annual, Qalandiya International (QI) Festival was founded in 2012 by a group of cultural organisations involved in visual arts to offer a forum for contemporary visual artists to spotlight their work.  QI seeks to place Palestine on the world’s cultural and artistic map, and open new channels for communication, interaction and dialogue. In addition to producing numerous exhibitions of new and diverse visual arts productions, it organises performances, lecture series, discussion circles, tours, book launches and other cultural activities. This year, in collaboration with 16 organisations from Palestine and abroad, QI 2016 has organised a comprehensive array of activities for the theme of The Sea is Mine.

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