The Ramallah Club Network

Migration and the mass movement of people often prompt exiled communities to create spaces to reconnect in their new homelands. Community centres, festivals and events celebrating special occasions help keep tradition and language alive, and the community connected. But beyond sharing food, dance and conversation, what intangible elements do these gatherings transmit? How have they contributed to direct and indirect forms of resistance? As a way of expanding on these questions, Samah Hijawi and Reem Shilleh take the Ramallah Clubs of the Palestinian diaspora in the USA as the starting point for reflection. Following the formation of Israel in 1948, also referred to as Al-Nakba in Arab histories, thousands of Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes. Some relocated to neighbouring cities and countries, while others migrated to other continents. In the USA, a group of people originally from the city of Ramallah created a network of Ramallah Clubs all over the country, through which they perpetuated their ‘Palestinian-ness’ in different ways. In a series of conversations broadcast online on Radio Al Hara, Samah Hijawi and Reem Shilleh will explore these questions with artists and some of the people who have been working in other Palestinian community centres around the world.

Samah Hijawi is an artist and researcher currently doing her PhD in Art Practice at Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Académie Royale Des Beaux Art de Bruxelles, in Belgium. In her multi-media works she is exploring the aesthetics of representation in artworks that allude to the histories of Palestine. Her works have been shown in The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Museum M, The Hayward Gallery, BOZAR, Beurscchouwburg, Bureau Europa, MoMa, Apex Art, Darat al Funun, among others. She previously collaborated with Ola El-Khalidi and Diala Khasawneh in directing Makan Art Space (2003-2016), an independent space for contemporary art in Amman. And together with Shuruq Harb and Toleen Touq she co-curated the platform The River has Two Banks (2012-2017), initiated to address the growing distance between Jordan and Palestine.

Reem Shilleh is researcher, curator, editor, and on occasion writer. She lives and works in Brussels and Ramallah. Reem Shilleh’s practice is informed by a long research project on militant and revolutionary image practices in Palestine, its diaspora, and solidarity network. Some of her recent projects are the curated film program The Space Between: The Invocation (MMAG Foundation, Amman, 2019), the research exhibition series Desires into Fossils: Monuments Without a State (Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah, 2017), and the curated film collage, commissioned by A. M. Qattan Foundation, Perpetual Recurrences (Qalandiya International, Ramallah, 2016). She is also Co-Founder of Subversive Film, a curatorial and research collective formed in 2011 that casts new light upon historic works related to Palestine and the region; engenders support for film preservation; and investigates archival practices, its effects and reverberations on imaginations. Reem Shilleh is a recipient of the BAK Fellowship for 2019-2020.

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