DUBAI- More than four million people live in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, under arduous political and economic conditions with limited freedom of movement. Yet, amidst these constricted circumstances arising from a 47-year occupation, commonplace everyday pleasures of the population persevere. Occupied Pleasures, the 2014 World Press Award winning project by Tanya Habjouqa made between 2011 – 2014, observes these small, but far from insignificant moments of daily life with a sharp sense of humor, revealing a narrative which stands in stark contrast to more widely viewed reportage, focused on violence and conflict.
Additionally a recipient of a 2013 Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund Award for this project, Habjouqa explains the need for this shift in vision: “The Palestinian visual narrative, as represented in western media, is often portrayed through a narrow prism. Despite the inability of Palestinians to maintain and sustain a normal way of life, and amidst this jarring reality, men, women and children often manage to steal moments of simple joys – quirky, modest occasions of happiness that range from taking a spin on a merry go-around to riding horses, or imagining a tropical adventure all the while standing against a colorful backdrop with a live parakeet in a simple studio in a refugee camp.“
Occupied Pleasures brings a breath of fresh air to a portrait of daily life within this region, through which a politics of pleasure emerges from these often humorous and absurd daily acts of resistance by those living under great strain and controls. Tanya Habjouqa’s photographs strike a strong and welcome contrast against a more familiar view of this country and its society visualized through the filter of violence and conflict.
Reflecting on the origins of this series, Habjouqa says: “I sought the juxtaposition of everyday politics and absurdity. Inspiration for this project came while in the Gaza Strip in 2009, during an interview with a man who refused to be deprived of his right to love, sneaking his Jordanian bride through tunnels from Egypt. He told me, “it was like a Bollywood film, her standing there and trembling, covered with dirt… I covered her with kisses.”
For Habjouqa, this series is also a very personal one and reflects her own experiences living in East Jerusalem with her family. Married to a Palestinian lawyer with Israeli citizenship, Occupied Pleasures also mirrors Habjouqa’s life, sharing quirky moments of amusement in a region rarely photographed with a sense of humor.
East Wing will be exhibiting Occupied Pleasures by Tanya Habjouqa from 20th of May till 10th of July,2014.