Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research will be an autonomous cultural center located in our family home, built by my great great grandfather al Mukhtar Yusuf Jacir in 1890 in Bethlehem.
We envision the center as a place in which the history and the contemporary conditions of Bethlehem will meet, enabling the production of new works of art and visions of the future. It will be a learning hub for the Bethlehem community and beyond — a place to ask questions, exchange ideas, and grapple with our present-day situation.
Our focus will be on visual art, cinema, and the construction of a research center to house the Jacir Ottoman archives — a vast collection of rare visual and textual material from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will also be hosting a small residency program with a special focus on the Bethlehemite community living in Chile. There will be a myriad of activities including workshops, exhibitions, master classes, and a place for visiting international and local artists and scholars to come and stay.
About the site
Located on the main Jerusalem-Hebron road, we are in the middle of Bethlehem’s three important refugee camps: Aida, Dheisheh, and Azza camps. In 2004, Israel illegally built a wall in the middle of Bethlehem just steps away from Dar Jacir, interrupting the historic Jerusalem-Hebron road for the first time in its history. As a result, the area around our house has become the flashpoint of fierce clashes between the Israeil Army and Palestinians. We have already rebuilt parts of our damaged grounds several times over the last several years and have had our building sprayed by Israeli skunk water. The wall has dramatically changed the lives of those of us who are struggling to retain the historical, economic, cultural and social value of our street and our city.
About the house
The house is part of our local collective memory in the Bethlehem area and it must be preserved for the sake of the whole community. It embodies an incredible amount of history and has stood strong through countless wars, occupations, revolutions, celebrations, downfalls, and upturns. It holds the history of this city in its very walls. We believe that our role in protecting this house is a very important one, for it is the bridge between our past and our future. We have spent the last year working on the designs for our center in collaboration with the architectural preservation group RIWAQ.
About the restoration process
The house has been officially inspected and assessed by RIWAQ, the designs have been finalized, and local contractors have been hired. The work to be done includes renovation, restoration, plumbing, electricity, rewiring, fixing the roof, setting up the rooms for the archive, exhibition, workshops, residency, and the public bathrooms. It also includes using the well of our house for all water supplies so that it is green and self-sufficient.
This phase of the project will take six months, at which time we will be ready for our soft launch. From September through January we plan to introduce the building to the community and begin the work of setting up our archive and residency and public programming which will all start early 2018.
The green space around the house is being rehabilitated, and will be used for artistic and educational activities for youth from the neighborhood in partnership with Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society.
About the archive
Dar Jacir will house the Yusuf Nasri Suleiman Jacir Collection, which contains extremely rare records of one of Palestine’s most important and successful Ottoman-era merchants. The peak period of globalization in Bethlehem was at the turn of the twentieth century, when Ottoman-era merchants from Bethlehem were moving around from month to month, in and around Latin America, East Asia, as well as other parts of the Ottoman Empire.
The collection includes diaries, photographs, ephemera, newspapers, personal letters (exchanged between Bethlehem and various points around the globe dating from the 1880s to 1930s), ledgers, correspondence, and an extremely rare in-depth archive of international financial transactions kept in ledgers which span a period of over 50 years. These documents are especially precious and rare because they date from the golden commercial era of Bethlehem, prior to British rule, when the city was a cosmopolitan and international center.
Our project will rescue this very important collection and ensure that it will be safe for future generations.
We are super excited to have great partners who will be collaborating with us on various aspects of our project. We hired RIWAQ who will be renovating our building; IPS will be working with us on our archive; we will collaborate with Bethlehem University on workshops and lectures; and Al Rowwad will partner with us on activities in our green space. I also want to give special thanks to the Queens Museum.
This project has been selected for inclusion on Art Basel's curated page on Kickstarter. Check out out their curated page kickstarter.com/artbasel to learn about other great cultural projects.
Dar Jacir is a local, grass-roots, and artist-run initiative for the community, and we want it to be community funded. My family is embarking on this project independently and without the financial backing or input of international development organizations working on the ground in Palestine, nor local governmental authorities. This means that we are truly an independent space and are not bound to the obligations or visions of any foreign institutions, donors, or local governances. Unlike non-governmental organizations whose funding guidelines restrict the vision and possibilities for artists to create work, we believe that artists should be supported from within their community. We hope to create a safe place for uncertainty, doubt, experimentation, and even failure. We believe that it is important to show that initiatives like ours can exist.
About Emily Jacir
Emily is an artist, filmmaker, and educator from Bethlehem who has been teaching at the International Academy of Art Palestine for the last ten years. She is one of the world’s most important and influential contemporary artists. Her works about transformation, questions of translation, resistance, movement (both forced and voluntary), exchange, and silenced historical narratives have been exhibited in major international group exhibitions since 1994, including at the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Jacir is also the recipient of major art prizes and awards from around the world, including a Golden Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennale and the Hugo Boss Prize at the Guggenheim Museum.
About Annemarie Jacir
Annemarie has two films which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, one in Venice and most recently Berlin where When I Saw You won Best Asian Film. She has written, directed, and produced over sixteen films. One of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 Faces of Independent Cinema, her film like twenty impossibles was the first Arab short film in history to be selected to Cannes and continued to break ground when it went on to be a finalist for the Academy Awards. As the founder of Philistine Films, an independent production house, Jacir collaborates regularly with fellow filmmakers. She also teaches screenwriting and works as a freelance editor as well as screenwriter and script consultant.
Risks and challenges
Honestly, we know it is crazy and wildly ambitious to undertake a project like this in a country under occupation and in a house that is on the front lines of confrontations, but it is for those very reasons that this project must go forward.
Renovations are risky but we have been working closely with architects and engineers to ensure that the risks are minimized. This is precisely why we have chosen to hire RIWAQ, as they have spent more than two decades documenting Palestinian heritage and culture through restoration of the built environment.
Delays and interferences in our work are highly possible given the political situation on the ground and especially in our area. But that will not stop us from moving forward — it will simply take a bit longer.
This project has been a shared dream of mine and my family’s for over 15 years. Finally in 2014 it became possible for us to pursue it, and so we came together and started working on this great undertaking. Now we are almost there! Our team is small — our family — but we work hard and are passionate and committed. We always come through.
Additionally, my sister and I have a proven track record of creating successful historic public projects, films, and workshops around the world. We hope you will join us in fulfilling this dream and we promise we will keep you up to date every step of the way.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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