Exhibition and programme curated by Yazid Anani
Alter-Nationality - 4 Aphorisms is a title based on a talk and text that I was introduced to in 2015. In Alter-Rurality, 24 Aphorisms, architect and professor Pieter Versteegh introduces his approach to challenge ways of looking at, thinking of and behaving in the rural. He developed his thoughts as a cloud of aphorisms to make an attempt to knit a web of potentials for rurality as contemporary practice and wisdom and to challenge general rural perceptions from an urban perspective.
Versteegh’s approach inspired me to revisit the term ‘subcontracted nations’ in a thought-provocative and playful manner. For now, I will call it ‘alter-nationality’. We use the term ‘alter-nation’ in German and we have two etymological meanings for it: one is der Wechsel, meaning change, exchange, changing, switch, transition; the other is die Abwechslung, meaning variety, diversity, diversion and relief. In this attempt, I am not being nostalgic by visiting the Arab Development Society (ADS), an experimental model farm in the Jordan Valley, but I am rather interested in revisiting the potentials of something that started in the past and never came to a complete flourishing.
Arab Development Society
In 1945 a strategy was developed by social activist, lawyer, nationalist and politician Musa Alami to improve lives in Palestinian villages with “the object of raising the social, economic and educational standards of Arab villages in Palestine.” The Arab League approved the plan “to strengthen the fallah, to rid them of debt and thereby save the lands from being lost to money-lenders and to fall into alien hands.” A survey of 350 villages was conducted to define their needs in 1946–47. However, in 1948, the course of history in the region transformed the plans, leading to the need to not only “raise the standard of existing villages, but to create the very conditions of an ordered and settled life” for 1.5 million refugees (The Arab Development Society, 2nd ed., (Jerusalem: The Commercial Press, October 1953).
The ADS was founded as a vocational education centre and experimental model farm in Jericho, providing education to the Palestinian population after successfully digging for water in the Jordanian desert. Learning how to collectively farm the land and build a civil society was at the core of ADS. The incentive behind Alami’s principles was the idea of a joint, collaborative, social action to transform Palestinian civil society. Alami jointly ran ADS with a board until his death in 1984. The educational vocational training centre that provided skills and education for several generations and thousands of Palestinians closed in the 1990s for various reasons. ADS still exists and remains as a dairy, date and fish farm, providing large parts of the West Bank with local products. Sixty-five people work on the farm and 21 families still live on the generous territory located next to the King Hussein Bridge in Jericho, West Bank, leading to Amman, Jordan. Due to location, large parts of the ADS property fall onto Area C and are therefore unusable.
Using four aphorisms, I will make an attempt to introduce potential readings of the ADS in light of the ‘subcontracted nations’, altering ideas that “the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship.” This ‘horizontal comradeship’ will be creatively explored in relation to the alter-nation, change and diversification.
The full text can be downloaded here.
9. Juli 2018