Homeland Lost - Palestine
Homeland Lost is Alan’s most widely-exhibited body of work. This, the first instalment, documents the plight of Palestinian refugees displaced from their homelands in Israel.
Over 70 years after the formation of Israel, around 3.5 million Palestinian refugees remain stateless. By juxtaposing portraits of refugees with images of their former homes in modern Israel, Alan Gignoux aims to highlight the colossal individual cost caused by the international community’s failure to resolve their situation.
The project took two years to complete, and entailed extensive work in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza. Alan also undertook careful research inside Israel to identify and photograph the subjects’ villages and homes.
The images of the subjects’ former homes record the transformation of the former Palestinian landscape. Many of the villages, razed during the way to discourage return, have fallen into ruin. They are either overgrown with weeds, or obscured by forests of pine, planted by the Jewish National Fund to hide traces of former habitation. Where homes remain, they now house Israeli families, or have been converted to different uses. Towns and villages have been renamed.
Palestinians refer to the events leading to the creation of Israel as al-Nakba – the catastrophe. The phrase emphasises the suffering caused by dispersal, exile, alienation, and denial. Older Palestinians long for lost houses and villages and for communities, orchards, olive groves, and the more abstract “homeland”. Many have built their lives around the dream of a return – holding on to keys, maps, and entitlement cards as symbols of ownership, loss, and hope.
The exiled Palestinians’ “right to return” is enshrined in UN Resolution 194. But as the years pass and successive international efforts to find a resolution fail, both older and younger generations face an uncertain future.
Homeland Lost is a bold reminder of the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Despite multiple efforts to achieve a resolution, the fact remains: 3.5 million refugees are stateless, some 70 years after the events that drove them into exile.
The photographic exhibition has been shown around the world, in venues including:
- The Barbican Centre, London (2008)
- Cinematheque, Tel Aviv (2008)
- Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (2008)
- Birzeit University, Ramallah, West Bank (2006)
- Bethlehem Peace Centre, Bethlehem (2006)
- Al Ma’mal Centre for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem (2006)
Head over to the Galleries page to see images from Homeland Lost: The Palestinians.
BBC Interview: Homeland Lost at the Barbican
Alan Gignoux talking to the BBC about the meaning and significance of the Homeland Lost exhibition at the Barbican.