DISARMING DESIGN FROM PALESTINE
THOUGHT PROVOKING DESIGN LABEL WITH USEFUL PRODUCTS FROM PALESTINE
Disarming Design from Palestine is a thought-provoking design label that develops, presents and sells useful goods from Palestine, designed by contemporary designers and artists in collaboration with local producers. The label aims to spread alternative narratives about contemporary Palestine. It reflects upon the function of creative practices in situations of conflict.
By stimulating interdisciplinary working relationships new artistic models are empowered, feeding innovative ideas for crafts production. As such art and design are deployed as powerful tools that allow serious discussions about political, social and cultural realities. How can creative practices contribute to a more sustainable society and a human-centered economy?
Disarming Design from Palestine was founded in 2012 by Annelys de Vet in collaboration with the International Academy of Arts Palestine (Khaled Hourani) and on the invitation of ICCO (NL). Since 2015 the label is registered as a non-profit company in Birzeit and as a foundation in the Netherlands, with a studio and warehouse in Belgium. The items are sold directly on the Palestinian market, and the foundation takes care of international distribution.
Founding & creative director: Annelys de Vet
Executive director: Raed Hamouri
Design & production manager: Ghadeer Dajani
Disarming Design from Palestine has been presented by Academy of Arts Palestine (IAAP), Al Ma’Mal Jerusalem, Ramallah Municipality, Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, Eltiqa-group Gaza, Windows on Gaza, Red Cressent Hospital Khan Younis, Darat al Funun (JO), Amman Design Week (JO), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (NL), Van Abbe Museum (NL), Droog (NL), Nieuw Dakota (NL), Het Nieuwe Instituut (NL), Bureau Europa (NL), Onnomatopee (NL), Offprint Bookfair (F/NL), Design museum Gent (B), Connexion VZW (B), Bozar (B), WIELS (B), MAD Brussels (B), Mudam (LU), Design Museum Keulen (DE), Design Museum London (GB), Mosaic Rooms (GB), Darat al Funun (JO).
Re-think Palestinian identity
In the current specific socio-political situation in Palestine, there is another layer to consider to guide us into a ‘sensitive’ local design and production. After what Palestinians have passed in the last century, there is a deep need for a re-search for a new Palestinian identity, as it has been and is being distorted and transformed after many shocking and drastic changes. Identity is not something fixed, but something that corresponds to contemporary realities, so to say a work in progress and that’s where product design serves part of this re-discovery. Disarming Design provides a platform where designers and artists search into the visual reality of Palestine; the daily needs and experiences. They elaborate them to create useful objects that will ease obstacles, or inspire for a better reality.
It is a challenge when it comes to telling the Palestinian story. The historical conflict, the daily problems, the complexity of the collective society that varies in the charm, kindness and active creation from one side, and the conservative perceptions from another side. Local and international audiences have become in a way desensitized of the overly repeated news reports of victims, documentaries on the struggles of checkpoints, and images of clashes, that deal with the people as only the recipients of information and facts, that media agencies race with each other on. Disarming Design from Palestine has been trying to take a totally different direction to engage people on a personal level, by creating an interaction between the produced product and the spectator. In a way that gives the audience (or ‘user’) a perception of being the contributor and a part of the story, not only a receiver.
During yearly create-shop a group of Palestinian and international designers collaborate with local artisans to develop prototypes for new products. Disarming Design will provide knowledge, references and guidance about contemporary design and how to develop a conceptual approach to product design. How can a product embody a certain story? Which story to tell? How to co-create products with local artisans? How to rethink Palestinian heritage?
Over time craftsmanship has deteriorated and fallen into a repetitive loop of making the same products without relation to their original meaning. In each Disarming Design’s create shop we try to put back a piece of the craftsmanship functionality in its place, by questioning what is the story we want to tell. This is why it is important to put together the ability of the artisan with the freshness and the perspective of the designer; together they make reality themselves.
Bring artisans to the frontier
Most of the artisans and producers in Palestine are from marginal families, or individuals with low income. We help them by creating back the demand from the local market where these people are facing great challenges; some because of the political situation which prevents them from moving around for trade purposes, so they have limits on finding resources, whether local or imported. They also face the international challenge that the local market is being diminished by the international mass production of goods made in China or elsewhere. One of our aims is to bring these artisans to the frontier, to acknowledge their importance and unique local and cultural technical talent which can’t be found elsewhere. We realize that their business can’t sustain itself without actually dealing with a production line of products.