presented by AGNÈS DE GOUVION SAINT-CYR
Born in 1945. Lives and works in Paris.
Inspector-General of Photography at the Ministry of Culture and Communication, artistic director of the Rencontres d’Arles in 1990.
Now 37, Raed Bawayah was hardly out of his teens when he seemed the equal of the great photographers. Born in the village of Qutanna, near Ramallah, he has focused on his home village in a manifesto as political as it is social. He describes the way children are shut inside, not daring to leave the yard they sometimes share with the family goat, the white rabbit and an attentive, protective mother. Occasionally, for a few seconds, they venture outside to play among the olive trees and cypresses, but always in a space that is very— excessively—restricted. The same issue is explored in his study of Palestinian workers forced by conflict and economics into exile in Israel, where they come together during periods of rest or pseudo-solitude in cramped, often shameful quarters where the sole choice is withdrawal into oneself. Most moving of all —and equal to Depardon’s San Clemente—is the series discreetly titled Hospital: gestures that are elusive, furtive, tender—gestures of fraternity often and of prayer, sometimes. There is no material lack in this enclosed world, but we feel a solitude and psychological wretchedness which reflect the moral isolation of a people made virtually prisoners in their own country. The most recent project, commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture, examines cultural diversity. Raed Bawayah’s tactic was to slip into the daily life of Gypsies, those tight communities so often ignored and even rejected, living in the interstices and withdrawn into themselves and their specific culture. Too often the caravan appears as the symbol of their isolation; yet it protects them too, before they set off on the road again. In a few sparely structured images Raed underscores the tenderness that unites clan members, their pride in their traditions and the melancholy of having to move on. With great delicacy, compassion and discretion, Raed Bawayah subtly portrays a daily life very close to his own, and the situation of communities or peoples who have no choice but to submit to imposed isolation.
Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr
HOSPITAL. These photos raise the question of the Other in human society in general and in Palestinian society in particular, by documenting aspects of the life of Palestinian psychiatric patients at the Mental Health Hospital in Bethlehem in the West Bank. The photos address a sensitive social issue in society—prejudice and the fact that such patients are not accepted in Palestinian society in particular, and in human society in general. Practically, I am raising these questions: Who is a normal human being? Who possesses the legitimacy to declare that a human being or a sector of society is illegitimate, or to declare a human being abnormal? Does the Other have a place in society, given the conflicts over authority, power and capital? The psychiatric patients who are the subject of this work make up a marginalised sector in Palestinian society; they are stigmatised and treated as illegitimate. It is not only they who suffer but also any person who makes contact with them, such as their relatives and even the hospital where they receive treatment. Through focusing on this subject, I aim to create another image, portraying them humanistically and without misconceptions. I aim to give them the right to say what they want without being judged as lacking understanding and feelings, or viewed as bizarre. My here is to reveal the difficult situation of these people and give it legitimacy and credibility, so that ordinary Palestinians will confront it and not run away from their responsibility. The photos are intended for all sectors of society. They aim to speak to humanitarian aid workers as well as Palestinian society, for this is a humanitarian crisis, given the universality of psychiatric problems throughout the world and the varying degrees of acceptance in different cultures. This is a human concern that citizens in any society can experience and understand regardless of their culture and background. Viewing the photos does not require intellectual training; even the illiterate can be touched by them and understand the cause they support. Viewers will surely get some idea of the world of psychiatric patients, relive their experiences and recognise their differences as well as their similarities.
Prints by Toros Lab.
Framing by Jean-Pierre Gapihan.