September 10, 2015

Simply Transcendent: Bar Palestine Balances Despair and Dignity in Gaza

In Gaza, despite the blockade, despite the wars and everything we’ve been through, you can live like anyone else and innovate.

— Suleiman Taleb, Bar Palestine

As much as life in a pulverized conflict zone tends to be framed by the news camera as pitiable, what typically remains unseen is the coping, the adaptability and the everday expression of will. That’s partly why these photos from Gaza are so remarkable. Recently, the urban fitness group, Bar Palestine, captured the interest of APF photographer Mohammed Abed, and how lucky we are.

(There is a larger set of photos in this post at IBT.)

Yes, the photos are fascinating compositions contrasting completely different things, blatant destruction and gymnastic prowess. If they are impressive demonstrations of agility and strength, however, they are invariably expressions of political muscle flexing under occupation, too — to the extent that politics can be defined in terms of “methods or tactics involved in managing a state.” The politics of these “negotiations” come through especially in the photo of Eyad Ayad doing a move called “the human flag”:

The achievement here — in a feat that, perceptually, is nothing short of magic — is how the group can take this mindlessly oppressive rubble world (just like the one Aylan Kurdi came from in Syria) and reduce it to pure geometry.

To repurpose the landscape the way they do gives a whole new definition to “men of steel.”

Given the numbing familiarity of Gaza’s crippled remains, each photo demonstrates emotional pivoting as much, or more, than the physical kind.

It’s both a metaphor and not-a-metaphor to observe, and in fact, to marvel, how Taleb can not just traverse but transcend what is, to confront such a crushing environment and take it in hand, to so powerfully and efficiently dematerialize it.

And, to model that for those kids.

(photos: Mohammed Abed/AFP)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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