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19 August 2009

Raed Bawayah – Discovery Award, Rencontres d’Arles 2009

Presented by Agnès De Gouvion Saint-Cyr. Inspector-General of Photography at the Ministry of Culture and Communication, artistic director of the Rencontres d’Arles in 1990.

HOSPITAL. These photos raise the question of the Other in human society in general and in Palestinian society in particular, by documenting aspects of the life of Palestinian psychiatric patients at the Mental Health Hospital in Bethlehem in the West Bank. The photos address a sensitive social issue in society—prejudice and the fact that such patients are not accepted in Palestinian society in particular, and in human society in general. Practically, I am raising these questions: Who is a normal human being? Who possesses the legitimacy to declare that a human being or a sector of society is illegitimate, or to declare a human being abnormal? Does the Other have a place in society, given the conflicts over authority, power and capital? The psychiatric patients who are the subject of this work make up a marginalised sector in Palestinian society; they are stigmatised and treated as illegitimate. It is not only they who suffer but also any person who makes contact with them, such as their relatives and even the hospital where they receive treatment. Through focusing on this subject, I aim to create another image, portraying them humanistically and without misconceptions. I aim to give them the right to say what they want without being judged as lacking understanding and feelings, or viewed as bizarre. My here is to reveal the difficult situation of these people and give it legitimacy and credibility, so that ordinary Palestinians will confront it and not run away from their responsibility. The photos are intended for all sectors of society. They aim to speak to humanitarian aid workers as well as Palestinian society, for this is a humanitarian crisis, given the universality of psychiatric problems throughout the world and the varying degrees of acceptance in different cultures. This is a human concern that citizens in any society can experience and understand regardless of their culture and background. Viewing the photos does not require intellectual training; even the illiterate can be touched by them and understand the cause they support. Viewers will surely get some idea of the world of psychiatric patients, relive their experiences and recognise their differences as well as their similarities.

Raed Bawayah

 

Prints by Toros Lab.

Framing by Jean-Pierre Gapihan.

Exhibition venue: Grande Halle, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2009.