La La Lil Jidar: 20 Years Behind the Apartheid Wall in Palestine
Aisha Mershani’s photography documents nearly 20 years of the Israeli Apartheid Wall, and more importantly, this body of work moves numerous stories direct from Palestine to Philadelphia.
Mershani most recently returned to the Occupied West Bank in summer 2022, finding countless people that she photographed in 2004/2005. By photographing people again, Mershani shows a timeline of the ‘then and now’ behind the Wall through these individual stories. The act of viewing has proven to elicit an emotional response; therefore, this project uses photography, as well as first hand testimonies that can be accessed through QR codes. The audio compliments the image, leading the viewer/listener to a website that mirrors the gallery show.
Aisha Mershani is working in alignment with the Philly Palestine Coalition, a local solidarity coalition comprising numerous organizations in the Philly area, to activate the gallery space. A group of artists and activists have come together to form the La La Lil Jidar Collective, who hold the intention to use arts and culture for the public to see how this global fight is deeply integral and tied to the local fights. The Collective believes that, with knowledge, they are able to shift the mainstream narrative on Palestine, while simultaneously building local community struggles through solidarity against all forms of violence.
The intent of this exhibit is to educate, while simultaneously building a broader community using the gallery space. Each week the collective will host 2-3 events in the gallery during the two-month exhibition, which will include numerous organizations, artists, and educators to draw direct connections between Philly and Palestine. This multimedia experience will engage audiences towards the realities on the ground through this artistic expression.
My photography focuses on visually exposing the realities on the ground in Palestine, reframing the source of violence. This body of work spans nearly 20 years as a collection of photographs highlighting the ongoing violence of Israeli colonial expansion by way of the Apartheid Wall.
For me, it is vital to view Palestine/Israel beyond US mainstream news framing, but through the people directly affected by the violence of the Wall. The aim of 20 years of the Apartheid Wall is to bring the voice and faces of the people of Palestine to Philadelphia. Educating U.S. audiences about what life is like behind the Wall.
No individual can do this work alone, so although this body of work is solely my photography, this project is only possible through a collaborative model from Palestine to Philadelphia. In Palestine numerous people contributed to finding those that were photographed in 2004 and 2005. Each person not only consented to their photo and testimony being used for this project, they were excited to be able to move their truths beyond borders. La La Lil Jidar became a collective of activists and artists in Philadelphia who used this material for activist purposes. As a team of artists and activists, we intend to build awareness around the truths of Palestine for a mainstream audience, and to essentially reframe the narrative.
The Apartheid Wall
The Apartheid Wall construction started in the north of the West Bank during the summer of 2002, and continued to move south in an attempt to quickly seal off the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
The path of the Wall dips deep past the internationally recognized Green-Line, at 710 km, it doubles the length of the Green Line, weaving in and out of Palestinian villages throughout the West Bank. The Wall’s aim is to separate Palestinian cities and towns from Israel proper, in many cases from other Palestinian areas.
In rural Palestinian areas, the Wall is comprised of a fence; at times the fence is electrified. In highly populated Palestinian areas, the Wall is built of concrete, and is 26 feet high. Buffer zones are situated near the Wall and watchtowers are strategically placed to monitor people near the Wall. The buffer zone confiscates more Palestinian land in the name of “security.”
The aim of the Wall is to secure illegal Israeli settlements built throughout the West Bank onto the Israeli side of the Wall, this is another feature of colonial expansion. As a result of the Wall’s violence, it annexes Palestinian lands and restricts Palestinian movement, essentially creating Bantustans throughout the territory where the only entry points are through militarized checkpoints. 3.3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, including the city of Jerusalem.
The Wall’s construction is still ongoing, only 64% is constructed as of May 2023 according to OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).