Jerusalem Design Week 2019 Establishes Presence for Modern Palestinian Designs

07.02.19 | By
Jerusalem Design Week 2019 Establishes Presence for Modern Palestinian Designs

Last year, we walked with Daniel Nahmias through the Old City of Jerusalem to experience the collaborations he fostered in conjunction with the Matchmaker project, which paired older craftsmen with younger designers in order to come up with new, hybrid inventions. For this year’s Jerusalem Design Week’s theme “East,” Nahmias—a Jerusalem native—and Tariq Nassar—an architect from Palestine—joined hands to helm the design and industry in the Eastern regions of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Design Week’s Chief Curator, Tal Erez (right) and Anat Safran, Artistic Director (left)

From Tal Erez, chief curator of Jerusalem Design Week:

Other countries have a history of industry, we have a history of conflict.

Jerusalem may not have an established presence in the design scene to rival Milan Design Week or Maison&Objet, but, as Tal Erez, the chief curator of Jerusalem Design Week jokes, “we (in Jerusalem) are 10 years ahead in conflict.”

The Eastern region of Jerusalem is particularly fraught: many Palestinians live in the region on the East of the Green Line known as East Jerusalem, as well as in the West Bank. While this region is considered Israeli territory, citizenship—along with voter representation, government funding and support—can be problematic: many of the people living here do not have Israeli passports and are unable to leave the country; they are also unable to vote outside of municipal elections in order to affect the change they desire.

Hansen House, whose directionality was turned East with a pink staircase designed by HQ architects.

Nahmias and Nassar spent months in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank—in neighborhoods such as Ramallah, Hebron, Beit Sahour, Bethany (Azria)—to scout for traditional Palestinian craftsmen and contemporary designers. Nahmias and Nassar then paired each craftsmen with the often young designers, who would mutually teach and learn from each other: the designers would pick up traditional Palestinian patterns of craftsmanship, while the craftspeople would learn modern shapes and forms to design their products.

Photo: Keshia Badalge

While many of the projects at Jerusalem Design Week touched on the visions, ideals, and manifestations of “East,” Nahmias and Nassar seemed to take things one step further. They directly confronted the realities of East Jerusalem and brought the Palestinian designers who so often are sidelined—and who do not have the same access to industry, community, and market that many of the Jewish designers enjoy—onto Israel’s biggest design stage.

Design student Abdu Julani collaborated with Tamimi Ceramics, whose ceramic plates are informed by Eastern Islamic culture. Abdu Julani took the opportunity to learn about an ancient art and manual design, while the ceramic artist at Tamimi Ceramics in return learned about the digital design process. The product is a collage of Arab, Islam and Western images on dinner plates, inspired by the family debates about feminism, race and religion that Julani would have in his household.

Artist Muhammad Mahlwas and bamboo craftsman Ziad Al Dabba came up with rocking chairs inspired by bedtime stories Mahlwas’ mother used to tell him.

While the exhibition isn’t high tech or interactive like the many scenic installations that dot Hansen House (a former leprosy hospital and the location of the design event), it tells a tale of something even more meaningful: a modern twist on Palestinian crafts, and the relationships that have blossomed across generations of Palestinian craftsmen and designers in order to make this happen.

Matchmaker is a profound and thoughtful exhibition funded by the city of Jerusalem that brings to the fore Palestinian artists. The results of this effort lives not simply through its tangible design products that are exhibited over the course of one week, but through sparking genuine collaborations that can continue in the future.

Curators: DanieL Nahmias, Tariq Nassar
Designers: Tharaa kirresh, Alaa Edris, Abeer Najar, Amjad Barq, Abdo Julani, Shady Francis Majlaton, Muhammad Mahlwas, Maisoon Swailem. Craftsmen: Arab Blind Association Workshop, Ramzi Al Natche, Yacob Al Natche, Muhammed abdalghani abed aljawad, Tamimi Ceramics, Aref Sayed, Ziad Al Dabba, Artezana for Embroidery & Handcrafts.

Keshia grew up in Singapore and moved to the U.S. to attend Dartmouth College. When she was living abroad after graduation, a chance enrollment at the Architectural Association Visiting School led to her becoming enamored with door schedules and architectural écriture. She's particularly interested in design for aging, rural architecture, and Asian design heritage.