Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Blind Muse

Ahmad, 2 years old, in front of the Muhayyim Azza Mural in the camp

The LCD screen of my digital camera shattered last week, when I managed to take a less than elegant spill down the 2000 year old stone steps in the Basilica of the Nativity that leads down to a place on the floor that is acclaimed to be the birthplace of The Baby Jesus. At first, I wasn't sure if the nuns in the grotto were shushing me for falling or shushing as a way of shaming me to cover myself. The irony, you see, is that I went out of my way to wear an appropriate length skirt and long sleeved shirt, just so that I wouldn't offend the ladies of God. Meanwhile, during the tumble, my appropriate length skirt managed to reveal my upper thighs. "Haram!," they say in Arabic here. This means bad or forbidden. "Haram, Haram!", they all kept hissing. When I realized that I had no sprains or broken bones, I was tempted to hiss back at them for not coming to help me up. Haram for not being nice about it!!--Even if I did land with my bare bottom on the spot where Baby Jesus may or may not have dropped into this world...


With a bruised backside and a broken camera, I limped my way back to Azza Camp, where my 16-year-old shadow, Niveen, greeted me as teenagers do here: with a kiss on each cheek and a very cool high-five. Niveen has been playing around with my camera since she first saw it. When I showed her that it was broken, she asked if she might "pretend" to use it anyway. I fiddled around with it for a while and discovered that even though the LCD screen is completely shattered (and there is no view finder), it still takes clear pictures. The only problem is that taking a pictures is basically like shooting blind. But, for Niveen's sake, this meant that she got herself a brand new camera.

In the past week, Niveen has come running to my room in the evening to show me her day's collection of photos. Already, she has documented 2 weddings. Yesterday, she was in the streets when the camp greeted a man who came home from an Israeli prison. He had been gone for 4 years. Every night, I upload her pictures to my computer, and the family sits around and enjoys her slideshow.

As of today, Niveen has over 500 pictures of her life and the things she deems important in the camp. Even though she's taking the images blindly, she's showing remarkable depth and clarity for finding moments that are saucy, honest and real. Even a well-trained photographer couldn't capture life here like Niveen does by simply pointing and clicking. Every night, I hug and kiss her and tell her that she has a great talent and a wonderful eye. As one of 6 siblings, I can tell that she loves this attention.

Our little project is giving her something to look forward to every day, which I like a great deal. It's incredible what a broken camera in Palestine can do.


"This is my grandmother in front of the store," says Niveen.

"This is the man that the Jews let out of prison yesterday."

"This is Dalia and Ruta. Sisters. You see?"

"This is Dalia. She is dancing in my room."

"This is our wall with the garden."


Anonymous said...

Thank *you* for such interesting and thought-provoking writing. I studied several of these issues intensely in school, but nothing quite compares to a first-hand account. I just wish I had a few days to sit down and do a marathon reading of your entire blog!

El Guapo in DC said...

Eres tan amable. Te echo de menos.