EXHIBITIONS 2014: the photographic project “Occupied Pleasures” by Tanya Habjouqa

24 March 2014
MUSIC: Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila for the first time in concert in Italy
25 March 2014

Occupied Pleasures by Tanya Habjouqa_Yoga Couple

The photographic project on small daily pleasures of life in the Occupied Territories and Gaza, winner of a World Press Photo 2014 in the category “daily life”, is presented with an exhibition at Aria Art Gallery of Florence, as a special event of the festival

OCCUPIED PLEASURES by Tanya Habjouqa: the first Italian exhibition of the Palestinian photographer, on stage at Aria Art Gallery in Florence (11 April – 21 May). Tanya Habjouqa is a recipient of the Magnum Foundation 2013 Emergency Fund. Her project, OCCUPIED PLEASURES, explores those rare moments of respite for Palestinians living under arduous political and economic conditions, which have shaped their lives and identities for decades; the project will be presented for the first time in Italy as special event of Middle East Now 2014. From a besieged Gaza where a five-minute boat ride is the epitome of freedom for a generation of youth imprisoned in a densely populated enclave, to women stretching in yoga positions against the West Bank hills on th outskirts of Bethlehem. Despite the inability of Palestinians to maintain and sustain a “normal way of life,”, men, women and children often manage to steal moments of simple joys – modest moments of happiness that range from taking a spin on a merry go-around to taking a horse ride, or imagining a tropical adventure standing against a colorful back drop with a live parakeet in a modest studio in a refugee camp. In humor there is often sadness, longing for more possibility. OCCUPIED PLEASURES brings together glimmers of hope, dignity and laughter; all of which override the emblematic stresses of an occupied reality.

A toy store van drives along Gaza's beach high way.

A toy store van drives along Gaza’s beach high way. 2013

Born in Jordan in 1975, Tanya Habjouqa was educated in the United States, receiving her masters in Global Media and Middle East Politics from the University of London SOAS. A founding member of Rawiya, an all female Middle East based photo collective, she has worked on the front lines in Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur, and Gaza . Habjouqa won a World Press Award in “Daily Life Stories” 2nd Prize for her project, Occupied Pleasures, exploring the sharp sense of humor and absurdities that a 47-year occupation in the OPT has produced. She is a recipient of the Magnum Foundation 2013 Emergency Fund. Tanya is known for gaining unique access to sensitive gender, social and human rights stories in the Middle East. Her series “Women of Gaza” is in the permanent collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Art. She was also a finalist for the 2014 FotoEvidence Book Award.
Although having a longstanding career in journalism and photography – she regularly publishes articles by her hand as well, she understands her way of working as visual anthropology. ‘I use an anthropological approach which is already more respectful than a news approach, coupled with the fact that I am from the region,’ she explains. ‘I would argue that all good journalists are good anthropologists. You are always looking deeper and analysing. I like to shoot slow, ideally. If I can, I like to spend my time with the community and not just barge in with my camera.’ In doing so, she shares with the viewer her unique access to the lives as lived by people otherwise boarded up behind the flickering news screenings.More than four million Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, where the political situation regularly intrudes upon the most mundane of moments. Movement is circumscribed and the threat of violence often hangs overhead. This create

West Bank: Students from the Al-Quds University javelin team wrap up the last practice before summer vacation in the West Bank city of Abu Dis, next to the Israeli Separation Wall.

Occupied Pleasures by Tanya Habjouqa_13
West Bank: Two furniture makers take a break in a pair of plush armchairs (of their creation) in the open-air in Hizma, against Israel’s 26-foot high Separation Wall.

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