French street artist launches new project in West Bank

Maan News Agency | Sept 9, 2011

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The French street artist responsible for adorning the separation wall with giant portraits of grinning rabbis, imams, Israelis and Palestinians has returned to the West Bank with a new project.

The artist, known only by his initials JR, has launched his latest project ‘Inside Out’ globally, and it arrived in Palestine on Monday.

He has installed booths in Bethlehem and Ramallah where people can have their photo taken and printed in black and white as huge posters.

At the Bethlehem bus station on Monday, crowds of locals entered the booth one-by-one to pose for a self-portrait, and posters can already be seen plastered along the city’s main street.

The idea of the community art project is that participants will be creative with their images, in any way they choose.

According to its website, the project “transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work.

“Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world.”

Palestinian coordinator Wisam Salsaa sees the project as an opportunity for people to “raise their voices and tell their stories” through images and expressions.

“People talk about Palestinians in numbers or statistics but they rarely see a Palestinian face,” he added.

But JR and his team are not imposing any concept on participants.

“Simply what they are doing, they are telling people, well, you have these booths, we can get your portraits, use them however you like. It’s yours,” Salsaa explained.

“We like participants to believe in the project and become a part of it.”

So far, participants have chosen to write “Free Palestine” on their faces, “I’m a refugee” and “Right to return.”

One suggestion from al-Azza refugee camp in Bethlehem was to draw the flags of countries that have recognized the state of Palestine on faces and create a mural.

The ‘Inside Out’ project was JR’s wish after winning the annual TED prize. TED, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to cultivating ideas and innovation, grants winners $100,000 and a wish.

Accepting the prize at a TED conference, JR explained: “What we see changes who we are. When we act together, the whole thing is much more than the sum of the parts. So I hope that, together, we’ll create something that the world will remember. And this starts right now and depends on you.”

The photo booths are located in Bethlehem’s bus station and in the Baladna center near Al-Bireh bus station in Ramallah.


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