Amman: The horrifying illusion of a journey through prison confronts anyone visiting the first extensive exhibition on the separation wall that Israel is building on occupied West Bank land. Combining photography, sound effects, replicas of the Israeli-built double walls, medieval-style observation towers, and barbed wire ripping through seized land, the Stop the Wall exhibition, which opened in Amman on Saturday, triggers feelings of pain, anger and claustrophobia. And it is precisely these emotions that Mary Nazzal, 24, the lone organizer of the event, seeks to invoke among the visitors, in her quest to raise public awareness, to help mobilize the first effective grass-root campaign against the barrier in Jordan, before moving on to other Arab countries.
"Nothing I can paint, draw or build can really show the magnitude of what is happening on the ground and the gravity of this wall", said Nazzal, Jordan representative for the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, a Palestinian-based international network of web-connected activists."But by recreating the experience. I deliberately want people to get uncomfortable and angry, in order to mobilize and move," she told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the exhibition, held at the Darat al-Funun - the Khalid Shoman Foundation - in Amman.
The Jordanian of Palestinian origin, who has been campaigning against the wall since construction began in 2002, had been toiling for weeks to create the overpowering atmosphere of a large prison, or a detention camp, the key result of the planned 700-kilometer separation wall, snaking through occupied Palestinian lands. Nazzal's husband, Aysar Batayneh, her Anglo-Indian mother, and scores of other sympathizers, worked equally hard to transform the beautiful interiors of the historic building housing the gallery, into a suffocating box. And they all took turns in writing multi-lingual graffiti on the walls. "Where are the Arabs?" asked one. "Stop the wall," "justice will not be silenced," "right is might," and "we want to live," read others. The Amman exhibition clearly shows the horror brought about in the course of controlling people and land. Like many activists in the region, Nazzal faces an uphill battle in being able to mobilizing the masses across the largely autocratic Arab world, where civil society remains marginalized, weak and ineffective. But she is bent on succeeding in her campaign to stop what she feels is the most "black or white" issue in recent history."We want to introduce people to the idea of what it means to be trapped, to feel suffocated. These people wake up every morning, facing this wall while their movement is restricted," said Nazzal, who earned her postgraduate degree in political science from Columbia University in New York in 2001.