Pictures of an old man with a wrinkled face, a dreamy young girl or children playing among the narrow streets of refugee camps decorated the narrow alleyways of Gaza’s Jabalia camp in mid-July. The message of the 70 young photographers who participated in the exhibition, called “Aziqqa” (Arabic for “Alleys”), was clear in its slogan: “The camp is the start of the story.”
The one-day exhibition, which attracted large crowds of visitors and journalists to Abu al-Aish Street, was the first of its kind in the Gaza Strip.
The photographers chose Jabalia camp, as it is the oldest, largest and most important one in Gaza. The camp was also the birthplace of the first intifada in 1987. Each photographer hung three of his pictures on the walls of the houses on the street to attract visitors’ attention.
One of the participants, freelance photographer Munjid Halas from the Shajaiya neighborhood, explained to the visitors how he selected his photos. He said that he saw in the face of the old man the simple life in Gaza, and hope in the eyes of the young girl.
In another corner, Mahmud al-Hindi, a visitor from Gaza City’s Zaytoun district, gazed at the photo he liked best: an old woman feeding her children. “I went to the exhibition with my friends because the pictures on show describe the suffering and the simplicity of Jabalia camp,” he said. “They embody the simple life that we live. The pictures on display tell the story of the electricity crisis, unemployment and children’s right to decent living conditions. The photographers have created beauty with their images, despite the crises the Gaza Strip is going through.”
Photographer Yousef Abu al-Said came from al-Zahra City to Jabalia camp to take part in the exhibition. He told Al-Monitor, “The pictures, our best works, tell the story of suffering, life and hope inside the camp. Also, it’s a new idea — no similar photo exhibition has been organized in other Palestinian camps.”
Abu al-Said said one of his pictures, of a group of flowers in full bloom, is meant to inspire hope among the camp’s children. Another shows a cheerful young girl. Photographer Wael Ayad said he took part to show the beauty and human side of the camp and to show that life there can be full of love, hope and happiness.
He said the exhibition was a meeting point for photographers, both male and female and from different educational backgrounds and with different skills, adding that anyone could visit the exhibition to see the pictures and dwell on their many meanings.
The exhibition was the brainchild of organizer and press photographer Mahmud Abu Salama, who lives in the camp. “The exhibition was called ‘Aziqqa’ as it took place in the alleyways of the Jabalia camp. The camp is a symbol of Palestinian authenticity and heritage,” he said. The idea for the show came from "a nationalist urge," he said, adding that he wanted to send a message of love and peace.
Abu Salama said the exhibition will travel to the other Gaza camps, including the Shati camp. He added that he wanted to prove through the exhibition that there are many young, creative Palestinians who can represent the country in competitions beyond Palestine.
Ali Yahya, another press photographer, told Al-Monitor, “The Aziqqa exhibition is sending a message from photographers to the world that there are beautiful things in Palestinian camps, which love life. It also tells of the suffering of camp life and specifically the life of Jabalia, which is the biggest camp in the Gaza Strip, and it brings journalists together to exchange expertise and knowledge.”