Obscured, Displaced, Unheard and X-rayed

In 2007 I ran a workshop, at the Cambridge Botanic Garden, with eleven refugees from seven different countries – Albania, Iran, Moldova, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Eritrea and China, where the participants took great pleasure in exploring the Garden and recognising plants from their home countries. They spent a wonderful afternoon building structures from plant materials, under the theme of ‘home’.

Issam Kourbaj

I thought to involve them again in my iaa proposal, so I went searching for the Cambridge Refugee Support Group, alas, after many attempt, I learnt that they don’t exist any more. I was advised to contact Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum, and I did, next week I am meeting the Forum’s Comunity Development Officer to discuss with him the posibility of collaborating with the Forum if my proposal to be accepted.

I would like to work with few refugees from different cultures to develop this seed idea for my project/installation on “Obscured, Displaced, Unheard and X-rayed” , which is to be made of four elements (each might be a separate proposal, and might end up just taking the obscured image and the cast, as the tension/conversation of material is much starker, but look forward to your thoughts!):

1. To take an obscured portrait (using my camera obscura) of each individual participant, similar to this (of mine):

Issam Kourbaj

2. Then I would like to cast each individual’s navel, here is the cast of my own:

Issam Kourbaj

But my interest is the negative image , which reveals the hidden part of the navel:

Issam Kourbaj

See the way how they relate to each other:

Issam Kourbaj

3. To ask each individual to put a bag, rucksack or a luggage containing few of their meaningful belonging/s, and to take an “airport” X-ray image of it, similar  to the “false”  translucent colours of this one (found on the net, about a travelor trying to smuggle 44 reptiles in suitcase) but hopfuly not of the same content!

Issam Kourbaj

4. Finally, to run a workshop with the refugees on drawing/writing about their object/s of significant and personal meaning relating to their memories of their past (if a written form to be used, to ask each individual to write  in their own languages, and not to translate it into English). Here is a sample of children’s drawings from Darfur- Sudan and the other of mine:

Issam Kourbaj issam Kourbaj

The idea is to exhibit these four elements; the obscured portrait, the negative cast of the navel, the X-ray image and the background story , from each individual refugee – including mine, in one column (I know there is big difference between me and other participants; I am not a refugee, I could visit my original country, and see my family and be heard by my people, and others are NOT).

This is a sketch plan for my proposal, and if I fail to find any refugees here in Cambridge, I was thinking to propose something within this frame, but using “half” of the iaa artists (the UK based ones!).

I would very much appreciate your feedback from you all (iaa UK and abroad artists) , and willingness, to collaborate with me on this proposal if it is to go ahead.


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