I Witness Silwan: Who is Watching Whom?
by Susan Greene
Previously published in The Jerusalem Quarterly, No.82, Summer 2020 — https://www.palestine-studies.org/en/node/1650290
“I Witness Silwan” is an art installation in the Silwan neighborhood of Israeli- occupied East Jerusalem. The installation features large images of eyes — belonging to philosophers, activists, and artists — that dare to look back at the occupying forces and bear witness to the colonial violence that is wielded against the Palestinian people. “I Witness Silwan” looks the ‘colonial gaze’ in the eye, asking: Who has the power to look and why?Whosesightcounts? Concurrently the process of creating the imagery involves a looking and witnessing of the colonial occupation in East Jerusalem. The images are created and installed by an international collective of artists and activists working with the local population, and will soon be supplemented with oral histories accessible both on-site and remotely. In this way, “I Witness Silwan” generates a global gaze within the region, making visible what was invisible and enabling and empowering others to bear witness, in solidarity with the Palestinian people, to colonial violence and dispossession. The article describes the art installation and the social, political, and economic context around it as well as its collaborative and creative process. It includes testaments to the social and political impact of the installation written by community leaders and project participants.
Keywords: Silwan; East Jerusalem; colonial gaze; surveillance; occupied Palestine, Israeli settlements; murals; Madaa Creative Center; Art Forces; art activism, international solidarity.