Expressions of Nakba: An Introduction

The National assembly for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of over 200 organizations, set Nakba-60 commemoration as a priority for 2008. A central reason behind this decision was to use the anniversary as an opportunity to educate the US public on the ongoing effect of the Nakba on the contemporary life of Palestinian refugees.

 To achieve these goals and to reach the public beyond the regular base of Palestinian rights activists in the US, the US Campaign launched Expressions of Nakba, an arts competition with a theme of remembering the Nakba and its ongoing effects, and celebrating the resilience of the Palestinian people. The competition consisted of five different creative categories: Written Work, Recorded Audio, Visual Arts, Poster Design, and Digital Media, partly modeled on Badil's “Al-Awda Award.”
In preparing the competition, the US Campaign solicited the support of activists and artists to help with the conceptual design of the competition, development of the website, the public launch and the ongoing publicity for the competition. This was particularly important since the wide exposure of the competition has been its primary educational tool. Seventeen jury members were also selected for the different creative categories, including renowned artists, filmmakers, writers, activists and intellectuals who generously agreed to help with the selection of the winning entries in each of the five categories.
The competition was launched on 30 January 2008, with a submission deadline set for 30 March 2008. Despite this very short window, the competition received an overwhelming response, whether through submissions, jury membership or feedback, from over 25 countries. Many of the submissions were from Palestinian refugee communities, as well as activists in the US and around the world - people already involved in the Palestine solidarity community. Several submissions, however, were from people who visited the website, learned about issue and decided to participate. When the deadline arrived, we had received more than 350 entries in the five categories combined from 17 different countries spanning 4 continents.

 For its organizers this competition was a great experience as it demonstrated the power of the arts and creative writing in education about Al-Nakba in the US, one of the most challenging scenes for the advocacy of Palestinian human and civil rights internationally. While the obstacles to advocacy for Palestinian rights in the US are numerous and multifaceted, the arts provide a new venue facilitating necessary discussions essential for advocacy.

 After a long and deliberate jury process, the winning entries were selected, and the best entries in the five categories were exhibited in Washington DC and online on 15 May 2008. What follows are the winning written submissions.