The annual Karimeh Abbud Photography Award Exhibition was held at Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture on Wednesday, November 13. The college puts out the call each year to Palestine’s photographers to submit work honoring the legacy of Karimeh Abbud in order to support photography as a form of expression for young people.
This year, the guiding theme of the show was “We shall have life on this land.” The school received over 100 photography submissions from all corners of historic Palestine, including West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza, Nazareth, and Haifa, with 64% of the submissions coming from Gaza. This year, 32% of the photographers who entered the contest were women. Earlier this fall, the first jury selected 26 finalists whose work was displayed at the award ceremony on the 13th. There, the college presented awards for the top three photographs chosen by a second jury. A later exhibition of the finalists and award winners will be held in Gaza.
The fourth year of the exhibition encouraged artists to show Palestine and its people through the lens of their photography, and to share that image with people here and abroad. Each submission for the award showed a depiction of Palestinian life, whether by representing the struggles of daily life under ongoing occupation or presenting hope and resilience for the future. Different subjects covered by the submitted photos focused on the Palestinian love for life in spite of all daily challenges they face with no electricity and limited water in Gaza, childhood under oppression, the rising number of amputees in Gaza, means of protest during the March of Return, traditions of Palestinian life, and the struggle of unemployment.
The first place photo, taken by Mahmoud Abu Tair, is titled “Tenderness/Strength.” Tair’s photo shows his mother sitting with her daughter’s head on her lap. Tair said the photo represents the mother as a symbol of tenderness and strength and someone who gives to her children and empowers them to face life’s difficulties.
The second place winner, Wa’ad Ahmad, photographed a young woman dancing in the ruins of Suba, a village that was erased by the Israeli in 1948. She said her photo, “Dancer in Suba,” is a mixture between the past and the present, the history, heritage, art, and nostalgia of a young woman calling to the souls of the land to return.
In third place, Moustafa Ghrouz’s photograph, “We Deem it Nearby,” shows a man standing by a tree looking out at a vast space.
Karimeh Abbud was born in Bethlehem as a daughter of Lutheran Pastor Said Abbud. She began in the early twenties of the twentieth century to photograph the world around her in Palestine, including her family and friends, holy places, and natural scenery.
Abbud was an entrepreneur who dared to break tradition by stepping into the male-dominated world of photography and challenged worldwide perceptions of Palestine by showing the reality of the world around her and focusing much of her art on Palestinian women. After Abbud’s death in 1940, her legacy is honored as one of the most important photographers in Palestinian history. Dar al-Kamila University College researched her story, published a book about her life and work, produced a film “Restored Pictures,” and helped to get her story out to the public. This year one of the most famous Arab novelists has written a new novel on Karimeh entitled “The Biography of an Eye.”
Members of the first jury included Issa Freij, a photographer and filmmaker from Jerusalem; Tamara Abdelhadi, a photographer based in Lebanon; Shareef Sarhan, an artist and photographer based in Gaza; Rami Rishmawi, artist and photographer based in Beit Sahour and the photography teacher at Dar al-Kalima.
Members of the second jury included Raouf Haj Yehya, a photographer and artist from Taybeh Almuthalath; Fayez Sersawi, an artist based in Gaza; Steve Sabella, an award winning photographer from Jerusalem based in Berlin.