Celebrating Leith and North Edinburgh Return of the Soul: The Nakbah Project
Return of the Soul
Return of the Soul II
Return of the Soul III
Return of the Soul IV

Elsewhere on Leith & North:
Edinburgh Poetry Garden
Dialogues of Wind & Bamboo
104 pairs of shoes exhibition
Leith & North: Please email any news items to: news@leithandnorth.org.uk Return of The Soul: The Nakbah Project (Edinburgh July 31st to August 18th 2008) Return of the Soul: The Nakbah Project (continued) >>>

Tiny wax figures hanging near the mesh (representing the figures in the distance) Return of the Soul - the Nakbah Project, is a moving artwork comprised of thousands of small wax figures creating an illussion of exodus. In total the project has produced over 6,000 figures, 3,000 have just been exhibited in Al Hoash Gallery in East Jerusalem and were created by Palestinians of all ages but mostly youths from camps in the West bank, Al - Amari and Qalandia (Ramallah) and the Doha Centre, Bethlehem as well as young professional artists from Jerusalem.

The 3046 wax and wire figures on exhibit at Patriothall Gallery in Edinburgh were produced primarily by young artists and crafts people across three camps in Lebanon, Beddawi, Burj al-Barajneh and El Buss under the aupices of Al-Jana (The Arab Resource Centre for Popular Arts), and Shams Theatre Association.

Woman sitting on the floor with Scotmid bags lined up along the wall. Jane Frere in olive green cottons smiling as a seated volunteer puts figures in a Scotmid bag Left <<<: Artist Jane Frere organises the unpacking of the bubble wrapped figures
Right >>>:
Tessa unravels some of the 6092 wires (two for each figure).

Volunteers from Edinburgh have been helping Jane and exhibition managers with the huge logistical task of preparing the installation for the exhibition. 3046 figures, ranging in size from around 4cm to 31cm arrived carefully bubble-wrapped in crates. Each figure had to be hung on nylon wires to represent the state of limbo in which the Palestinian people have found themselves since the mass Exodus in May 1948, known as the Nakbah.

The figures had to be carefully unwrapped, classified, counted, and (to Leith & North, bizarrely) arranged in a series of plastic bags, which had been provided by Scotmid. The bags of figures were arranged in the Scotmid bags, in a winding procession, up the full length of a corridor, and round the room where they were unpacked. The bags with the smallest 4cm figures started the line which led up through all the sizes to the largest 31cm sized figures.

See a short film of the art work in Jerusalem, and hear Jane's comments >>>

Amber coloured wax figures Woman in a white hard hat, standing between a step ladder and the foot of a scaffolding rig Left <<<:Some of the larger figures in their Scotmid bag
Right >>>:
Robyn Hambrook, assistant project manager.

The figures have been made by Palestinian young people (read more on the next page). Each figure is carrying something - sometimes a basket, sometimes another person - anything they could take as they had to flee their homeland.The figures have little hooks in their shoulders, so that they can be tied to the nylon wires, which suspend them. Leith & North's reporter worked with the figures, but was also aware that the mesh from which they hang, had to be carefully measured and cut too.

Jane Frere in green cotton on the scaffolding hanging the smaller figures Jane Frere on the scaffolding with Pippa Spencer Nairn, media consultant, seen through the shimmering nylon wires The wax figures ranged in size from 4cm all the way up to 31cm, and had to be hung in rippling waves, creating a sense of space, depth, and distance from near to far. Each figure hangs on two hooked nylon wires - each a different length, so that different sized figures can be seen in rows, descending from high, in the distance, to low in the foreground. These wires had to be unstuck from their wrapping and laid out, so that each figure could then be tied to its wires, and carried up the scaffolding and hung in limbo.

A lot of painstaking care has gone into this event - from the making of the figures, to their careful transport and unwrapping, to the work of volunteers to sort them, to the creation of the structure to hang the figures to the final tricky display of each figure in lonely limbo.

Volunteers undertook all this work as a small price to pay, to commemorate the 60 years of continuing suffering of the displaced Palestinian people, and to give visitors to Edinburgh this summer a chance to reflect on what is still happening in the Middle East today.

Patriothall Gallery web site >>>
Return of the Soul web site >>>
A nightmare of shattered lives: The Scotsman, July 24th>>>

Return of the Soul: The Nakbah Project (continued) >>>

Larger wax figures suspended at the foreground of Return of the Soul