The exhibition Border Ecologies and the Gaza Strip traces the transformation of a Palestinian farm in the Gaza Strip situated along one of the territory’s most militarized borders with Israel. Over the past few decades, the farm - which is run by the Qudaih family - has been attacked, damaged, and destroyed time and again by Israeli air raids, shelling, and patrols. In an interview, I spoke with Amir Qudaih about his personal highlights of the exhibition and its development process of over two years, during which he communicated stories between his family in Gaza and designer and architect Malkit Shoshan.
Amir Qudaih moved to Boston, USA in 2016. He works as an engineer, translator and TEDx speaker. When I asked him whether interdisciplinary overlaps can be beneficial, he explained that although he does something completely different for a job now, his background in farming sometimes helps him to look at a problem from a different angle. Despite growing up with limited possibilities, he kept his urge to create and improve and combined that with the opportunities that opened up when he moved to the U.S.
“I didn't want to miss any opportunity to research. I want to use it in a good way so I can show to the world, you know, the skills we have.”
Since the exhibition really is interwoven with Amir's life story, he inevitably holds a strong connection to all its parts. But there was one element that we discussed in detail: The story ‘Gold for water’ is special to Amir because it’s related to his mother Khaldya Qudaih who sold the gold she received at her wedding so the family could build a rainwater-harvesting system. While having access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities is a basic human right, many people have to go through great lengths to improve their situation even a little.
“Nothing goes in. Nothing goes out. There is no electricity, no running water. You can't travel. You can’t go outside at night. And we’re always being watched. There's always shooting. Well, this is how I saw it growing up and this is how it looks in Gaza until today.”
I asked Amir how exactly the exhibition came into being and how Malkit Shoshan and he worked together. They met in New York for coffee back in 2018 through a shared contact from Harvard University. Talking about how he forwarded information between his family back in Gaza and Malkit, Amir explained that
“it's really hard to communicate with my family back home because we don't have access to the internet all the time and only get two hours of electricity per day if we're lucky. So it could take a week or two for a single question to be answered.”
Because of this slow process, it took two years to gather all the information they needed to create the exhibition. Every Friday Malkit and Amir would meet on zoom and write down notes and questions that he would then ask his father as soon as they were able to communicate.
When being asked what his family thinks about having this exhibition about their lives, he told me that they are “super happy, super proud”. One of the reasons why he wanted to contribute to the exhibition was to improve their lives; that’s why he continues doing public speaking, to educate people and to raise awareness about the situation in Gaza.
“I hope my family and people back home will have a chance. To experience a different life.”
Border Ecologies and the Gaza Strip Exhibition
24th of December 2021 until 21st of March 2022
Restaurant at Mediamatic Biotoop
Click here for more information.