The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir’im

Friday, April 4th, 2008
Continuing Al Nakba Series….

Screening and Discussion with director John Halaka (“Made in Palestine” artist):
The Presence of Absence in the Ruins of Kafr Bir’im

7:30 p.m.

Alwan for the Arts
16 Beaver St – 4th Floor
New York City, NY
Subway: 4, 5 to Bowling Green; J/M/Z to Broad St.; R,W to Whitehall St.; 1 to Rector St. or South Ferry; 2, 3 to Wall St.; A, C line to Broadway-Nassau

Free and Open to the Public

New York Premeire!

Shot on location in the ruins and cemetery of Kafr Bir’im, a Palestinian village located in the Northern Galilee, the film introduces the viewer to Mr. Ibrahim Essa, an elderly poet who survived the ethnic cleansing of his village in 1948. Mr. Essa’s family has lived in Kafr Bir’im for the past 700 years. Through his narrative and poetry, Ibrahim Essa recounts his experiences as a youth in the village, the hardships of a life in exile and the intense emotional, physical and historical connections to the land that he shares with the 5,000,000 Palestinians who currently live in the Palestinian diaspora. Mr. Essa employs an ancient oral tradition of poetry that, in style, is similar to what is now referred to as “Spoken Word Poetry.” This improvisational oral tradition has been around for centuries in Northern Palestine and continues to be used by farmers and villagers to express the community’s intimate relationship to the land; a yearning for past times; and their cultural, psychological and physical attachment to the ancient and modern ruins that exist throughout that region.

In his introduction to the events that resulted in the complete destruction of the village, John Halaka explains that “The village of Kafr Bir’im was ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian inhabitants by the military forces of the newly established state of Israel in early November 1948. All of the 1050 inhabitants of Kafr Bir’im were driven from their land, and were never allowed to return to the homes and fields that they and their ancestors had inhabited and cultivated for centuries.”

The film commemorates the 59th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Kafr Bir’im and memorializes the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The ethnic cleansing campaign occurred between December 1947 and December 1948, resulting in the destruction of Palestinian civil and political societies, the eradication of 531 villages, and the expulsion of over 800,000 Palestinians.

Professor John Halaka joined the Visual Arts Faculty at USD in 1991. His creative work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political concerns. Halaka creates works of art that raise questions, for himself as well as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. His experiences as an artist of Palestinian descent informs his investigations of cycles of repression and displacement as well as the personal and political relationships between desire, denial and instability. “Through my work, I attempt to initiate a dialogue with the viewer that could hopefully instigate transformation, one person at a time. This effort is best summarized by James Baldwin’s eloquent observation. “When circumstances are made real by another’s testimony, it becomes possible to envision change.”