Images are an important part of our course, and we have already written two blogs about images, about the joy some pictures can bring, and about the frustration when looking for images online. These days, pictures of the Gaza Strip are unfortunately once again prominent in newspapers, TV and social media. The photographs we see in our media are very different from the images of Gaza that our team shares via WhatsApp, as though there were two Gaza Strips: the exceptional and the ordinary one.
Of course, the Gaza of markets, libraries and life and the Gaza of fences, dark smoke and death are one and the same. However, Western media only display one-sided images of this land and its people, showing their suffering when it becomes photogenically excessive. The normality of life in such an ‘abnormal’ place is seldom seen and little known. Our course aims to offer, together with beginners’ Arabic language, a view of Gaza uncut: as under siege and cut off; as tiny and overcrowded; as angry and scared; but also as a place in which life thrives, where people still dream and hope and smile as they go about their daily tasks.
The course’s videos are now coming together. We have been quite ambitious, but the results are rewarding indeed. The collaborative story line has been turned into screenplays, and the screenplays have been now turned into videos, with the skilful help of Moutasem Ghorab, IUG’s resident filmmaker. Our colleagues Sahar and Jehad have transformed into Sarah and Adam, Italian-born siblings of Palestinian descent. Meeting them in Gaza is their Arabic teacher Anas, played in the videos by Mohammed Esa, who works at the Islamic University of Gaza’s radio station. Together, they take us on a journey around Gaza city, with its cafes, shops and markets; at IUG’s library and a nearby park; and into a Gazan home.
As the team in Gaza films and battles with technology (and power cuts) to upload the materials and be ready for our pilot curse, the team in Glasgow follows them via WhatsApp. Through the updates that we regularly share, the photographs and the bouncing back and forth of ideas and suggestions, we are challenged in our perceptions of each other and of each other’s worlds, developing even further our capabilities. Our ‘capability of affiliation’, in the imagining of others’ situations; our ‘capability of emotion’, in the attachment to things and people, and through the love and pride in the places one calls ‘home’; and our ‘capability of senses, imagination and thought’, in the collaborative production of works and events.
We – the team members who live on the safe side of the computer screen, with electricity 24 hours a day and the taken-for-granted freedom to travel further than 45 kilometres – can never forget that our friends and colleagues in Gaza are working under very challenging circumstances. We admire their sumud, their cheerful attitude and their dedication and determination. And we are even more grateful, if possible, for all their hard work.