Palestinian artist Samar Hazboun has shown a special interest in the effects of Israeli occupation on Palestinian children in the West Bank. Hazboun’s 2013 series Detained: Confessions of Palestinian Children Imprisoned by Israel explored the impact of incarceration on Palestinian children and their families. In a second 2013 series Before the Wall, Hazboun seeks to capture the impact of Israeli mobility restrictions on Palestinian childhood.
In an introduction to Before the Wall, Hazboun writes that Palestinian children “are constantly exposed to an aggressive visual environment where checkpoints, heavily armed soldiers and the apartheid wall have become normalised.” The photographs pose Palestinian women and girls enacting traditional behaviors of childhood–children playing with plastic toys and siblings, a mother holding her daughter–at a short gap in the wall. These surreal scenes show normal activities in an abnormal setting.
In her introduction, Hazboun cites the wall and other restrictions on Palestinian mobility as one factor contributing to psychological ailments such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Palestinian children. She observes that “the majority of these children do not have access to professional mental health support – instead they remain trapped with their suffering in what is essentially an open air prison.” Hazboun’s aesthetic invokes her concern with the overwhelming influence of the wall on children’s lives. The photographer dressed her subjects in black and white to harmonize with the dun colors of the concrete wall and cleared land of the separation barrier. In an aesthetic parallel to the wall’s control over Palestinian children’s lives, the colors of the barrier guide the sartorial appearance of the photographs’ subjects. The wall has leeched color from the photographs just as Israeli restrictions on mobility have removed opportunities from Palestinian children’s lives.