During the winter season, many people struggle to come to terms with ideals surrounding family and the ability to go “home” for the holidays. While having and constructing a home is a human right, people often violently disagree over who has the right to live in and make a place their home. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which we do not have the space to properly flesh out the inner workings of here, is fundamentally about home and remains one of the world's longest-running and most controversial conflicts.
The oppression of Palestinians' sense of homeland has produced symbolic acts of resistance like displaying a watermelon in front of one’s home, as the fruit mirrors the colors of the Palestinian flag. While watermelons have become a way that Palestinians display cultural pride in the fight against Israeli apartheid many Palestinians must find a way to connect to their homeland as refugees living elsewhere. One artist who works with this distance to create work about being homesick for Palestine, or as she writes “the love of my life,” is Hala Kaddoura. Currently an MFA candidate in art practice at UC Berkeley Kaddoura uses photography to advocate for the ability to return home for the six million Palestinians that live in exile from their ancestral homeland.
This is a generational legacy steaming from the more than 700,000 Palestinians who were exiled upon the establishment of the State of Israel on land which primarily belonged to Palestine in 1948. Kaddoura’s grandparents were among those forced to leave, walking barefoot to the South of Lebanon, where they remain stateless to this day, without the ability to return or visit their home. Memories and states of being which are referenced by Kaddoura’s use of imagery like Lebanese identification papers from her childhood. An art practice truly rooted in the advocation for the restoration of human rights to such refugees, Kaddoura draws attention to Lebanon’s treatment of Palestinians, where Palestinians are not allowed to own property, pay into social security which they will never be allotted, barred from applying to many jobs, and remain disenfranchised.
In her MFA first-year show she included a petition titled #PalestinianBirthRight, which would be considered for trial by the Human Rights Campaign if she reaches 20,000 signatures. For now, Kaddoura reunites with Palestine through her photographs, words, videos, and collages. In her writing, she describes driving along the coast of Lebanon on Sundays to catch a glimpse of Palestine from afar and "send her kisses." Ultimately photography becomes a way to transport oneself to the faraway home and transverse the political and geographical barriers of reality. Cleverly Kaddoura names one of her photographs, in which she takes a selfie in a mirror surrounded by citrus fruit, "paliportation", referencing the relocation of her heart through imagery. Kaddoura summarizes her hopes, writing that "one day, all borders will fall and occupation will no longer exist." The ability to go home is certainly something that those of us that can do so should cherish as 2021 comes to a close, and work to make more common in 2022.