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Disarming Design from Palestine, Za'atar w Zeit

Communication design

Design to pass on the stories that reflect the complex reality of inhabitants of a refugee camp.

A team of Jordanian, Palestinian and Dutch designers collaborated with local craftswomen and men from the Jerash refugee camp in Jordan, to develop a series
of thought-provoking products. I participate in this workshop held by Disarming Design from Palestine. 


Disarming Design from Palestine the story

Disarming Design from Palestine the story


At the invitation of Amman Design Week, and hosted by cultural center Darat al Funun, I collaborated on a program from Disarming Design from Palestine. we worked in teams to design items and interchange with the artisans of the Jerash refugee camp in Jordan, Amman.

Here, almost forty thousand Palestinian live in small concrete houses. They, their parents or grandparents, fled from Gaza in 1967 when Israel invaded the Gaza Strip. They never received Jordanian citizenship and are still to this today stateless. When I received the news I was accepted into this artist residency, I wanted to be prepared and started reading about this issue. But looking back, nothing could have prepared me for this eye-opening experience. When arriving at the women's center on the edge of the refugee camp I was silenced, speechless, saddened, and angry, but above all, I felt powerless and was struggling with how to relate to this uncomfortable truth. I felt unease in being part of a group of international visitors, being dropped off at places in the camp to visit, watch and leave.

Although we were aware that we were visiting one of the poorest camps in Jordan, nobody expected that the refugees struggle this much. We were silenced, speechless, saddened, angry, but above all, we felt powerless and were struggling how to relate to this uncomfortable truth. Some felt really depressed, others were fighting with feelings of guilt for not taking enough action, and at the same time, we felt unease in being part of a van with international visitors, being dropped at places in the camp to visit, watch and leave. It underlined for me the feeling of responsibility to tell these stories. 


Disarming Design from Palestine bowls prototype


As soon as we were able to spend time in the women’s craft center they started to make things, different stories crossed the tables, humor entered the room, and imagination started to bloom again. We were relating on the basis of strength and creativity, on an individual and human level. We saw the beauty of these women and were particularly impressed by their persistence. This inspired all of us.

It underlined that identity is not something that is fixed, but something that corresponds to contemporary realities. It is a work in progress and that’s where product design serves a part in this rediscovery. Crafts don’t just teach us about how things are made. It’s also a social act that relates to the sense of a place, how a community is built and what its values and rituals are. 

With olive groves lining the edges of the refugee camp it was difficult to miss the constant presence of the olive tree in Palestinian lives. The tree has long represented the longing for home and resistance to the occupation of the land, as it tries to hold on to the very soil it was planted in. We decided to design two interconnected bowls made out of this olive wood. Each has a flattened side, allowing them to connect to each other so they can almost form one. They are designed to serve the famous thyme-based spice mix za‘atar and olive oil, zeit, whose combination is so significant for Palestinian homes.


Disarming Design from Palestine Za'atar w Zeit bowls



Disarming Design from Palestine




Disarming Design from Palestine, architect Rand Abu Al-Sha’r, cultural center Darat al Funun, carpenter Hasan Abu Siam, embroiderer Siham Abu Nimeh, and tailor Saber Abu Masoud, graphic design studio Asja Keeman. With special thanks to everyone else who made this project possible.


Communication design

Exhibition venue

2018, Nieuwe Instituut, The Netherlands
2018, Design Museum Ghent, Belgium
2017, Studio Disarming Design, Palestine
2017, Amman Design Week, Jordan



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