The Palestinian Museum is due to be opened in 2015 in Birzeit, the Palestinian town north of Ramallah in the central West Bank. Persekian presents the concept of the museum, whose main aim is to connect all Palestinians particularly those living in the diaspora and scattered around the world.
Conversation transcription below
Tiziana Casapietra: Could you tell us more on the Palestinian Museum project.
Jack Persekian: The groundbreaking ceremony was done on April 11th, 2013. During the ceremony it was announced that we are ready to break ground and start building.
The all story began in 1997 when the members of the welfare association, the board of trustees, recognized the need to establish a modem historical museum in Palestine dedicated to preserving and commemorating the recent Palestinian past, particularly the Nakba (Arabic: النكبة, an-Nakbah, lit. “Disaster”, “catastrophe”, or “cataclysm”, Ed.),that occurred in 1948 (when several hundreds of thousand Palestinian were forced to leave their homes as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Ed.).
After a series of discussions, meetings and conceptual changes, the museum purpose was reformulated. Instead of being conceptually dedicated to Memory, the institution is now dedicated to celebrating, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting Palestinian culture, history and tradition through a network of Palestinians in Palestine and in the rest of the world.
TC: Since you are a contemporary art curator, how is contemporary art entering this project?
JP: Contemporary tools, means and platforms are sued to access a wider audience. Contemporary art is thus meant not a limited sense of it, but more in its broader definition as a tool of interpretation.
TC: Regarding the project of the museum as a building, did you have to do a competition?
JP: Yes. The idea was to allow different people from different parts of the world to interpret the concept of this museum in a specific physical space.
TC: Who are the architects who won the competition?
JP: They are architects from Ireland and their name is Heneghan Peng. They have been hired two years ago to design the building.
TC: Why have you selected this project?
JP: Because of the inspiration that these architects have had from the actual landscape where the Museum is going to be built. This landscape is characterized by a traditional tending to the land, the all system of terracing that farmers and villagers utilize in order to tend to the land and allow for the maximum usage of it. From those contours of the terraces, the architects got inspired; they took these contours and elevated them in a three dimensional form. Thus you can easily see how the museum got its shape and form.
What is so important about the concept of this museum is that it tries to reach out to Palestinians wherever they are, all the Palestinian communities that live in the diaspora. As you know more than half of the Palestinian population lives outside Palestine. So in that sense, it was decided from the very beginning that this museum will incorporate a network of partnerships with Palestinian centers in other places in the world. The idea is thus to connect all Palestinians communities scattered all around the world.
TC: Do you already know what you are going to show at the opening?
JP: We are now working on the concept of the exhibition, the title – it is still a working title – will probably be “Never part”. We are trying to compose a picture of Palestinians today; we are trying to take a snapshot of this scattered population all over the world. The way we are trying to do that is through stories of individuals that connect them with objects that they held on and kept with them for a long period of time. Through this relationship between the person and the object that she or he held on to, we try to unveil how identity issues have somehow transformed that particular object. The classical example is the key of the houses that Palestinians have kept with them when the fled their houses during the war in 1948. They have held on to these keys as symbols that there is a house for them somewhere there, they own it, but they cannot reach it.