Joshua Matthews – Quicksand – The Sinking of Palestinian Diaspora Identity

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Faculty mentor: CoCo James

Artist’s Statement: As human rights abuses against displaced Palestinians relentlessly continue over 50 years after their exile, a Palestinian diaspora right of return lingers as a solution more viable than ever before.

Starting with countless atrocities committed against the Palestinian people during the Palestinian Exodus of 1948, such as the Deir Yassin massacre, displaced Palestinians have experienced hardships that continued to afflict their mental health long after the physical events took place. With the wrongful occupation of their homeland, the struggle for Palestinians to find a form of identity while in a state of displacement and oppression in abusive refugee camps is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis.

In my presentation, I aimed to highlight the feelings of lost identity amongst Palestinians that I learned about in my research. I attempted to do this through the use of small figurines and decor to create a still image that serves as a metaphor rather than a literal depiction.

In the sand, having sunk up to their chest is a Palestinian family. They are matte black, deprived of any identifiable features or expression, to represent the lack of identity with which Palestinian Diaspora are afflicted with today. Behind them is a small house, specifically one that doesn’t match the style of the historic area. This is to indicate that it is the structure set by a foreign entity, enforced through a wrongful occupation. Next to the house is a figurine of a man with a weapon. He is there to indicate that the land was taken by force. Red paint drips down the front of the home to portray that actual blood was shed during the occupation of Palestine. The family is very blurry and has nearly disappeared, but they are still visible. This is to show that Palestinians have had a difficult past, but they are not a people of the past. Many of them live on in inhumane conditions in refugee camps, and their lived experience is the largest argument for their Right to Return.

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