What is the image of Jerusalem that dwells in your mind?

Invitation to all Palestinians living outside of the

 ” e x i l e d   c i t y   o f   j e r u s a l e m ”

participate here

Work started on the preparation of an exceptional book “Jerusalem in Exile – tangible memories” by artist Steve Sabella. The book will explore visual relations to Jerusalem by Palestinians who live in the Diaspora. It will give the opportunity to materialize mental images of Jerusalem. The book will be edited by poet Najwan Darwish and the work is also expected to be presented through international exhibitions. Following is Steve Sabella’s art statement, presenting his ideas; it also includes an invitation to participate in the art project. 

“Jerusalem has witnessed many occupations, but like never before, over the past 58 years, have people been denied as much access to it. With the construction of the separation wall around it and through it, Jerusalem itself has become an isolated city, lost and "In Exile."

Jerusalem has a distinctive meaning to Palestinians. When asked to, each one of us, undoubtedly, will have a different description of the city. For people who cannot visit it or whose visit to it is limited to a tourist stay due to political restrictions or the denial of their right to return, I am confident a certain image of Jerusalem dwells in their imaginations. These imaginations, over time, become thoughts suspended and charged with emotions. They also enduringly struggle to come to light, and to reality. However this factual reality is colonized and entrapped.


Hence, I would like to liberate and transform these imaginations and thoughts into visual images—that is, to create a photographic image from the descriptions of these various mental ‘images’ of Jerusalem as relayed to me by Palestinians from all over the world. Their descriptions of their images will give me the opportunity to discover and to experience Jerusalem in new ways. The imagination will act as an extra uncontrolled dimension where it will be the vehicle that will pour the thoughts of many Palestinians in the world to every street corner in Jerusalem, in effect liberating it. It will be like an interaction of imaginations, theirs and mine, which no walls can stop, as these will pass above and through these walls.


This endeavor, I hope, will stimulate ideas and emotions. It is intended for the resulting collection to be compiled and presented in an art book, to be edited by poet Najwan Darwish.  I imagine it will present valuable texts about Jerusalem, belonging and home. This experience of transcendence of words into images, of imaginations into realities, will eventually create an art of celebration, one of birth and rebirth. It will be an art that will live and transcend boundaries.”


Invitation to all Palestinians living outside of the

 ”exiled city of Jerusalem”

The project is intended to communicate with the people who do not live in Jerusalem. What is the image of Jerusalem that dwells in your mind ? I would like you to describe this image in words. Try to be specific and feel free to express yourself in any way you want, and as elaborately as you like. If you think a background text to the image description is necessary, certainly feel free to do so. Your text may be added to the publication.



  • A book comprising the contributions & participations of about 100 participants will be published along with the image descriptions and their corresponding images that I will have ‘re-created’ photographically. It will also include the participant’s personal background as well as other texts on Jerusalem that this project may yield. It is expected to become a testimonial on many Palestinian influential and known figures living today. The book will be unique in showcasing new faces and dimensions to Jerusalem.


  • Local & International Exhibitions.

















P r o j e c t  A r t i s t i c   B a c k g r o u n d


I have noticed that memories, imagination and space constitute the basis of all my art projects. Now it also appears that Jerusalem, the city of my birth and where I live and breathe is a constant factor in shaping all my artworks whether consciously or subconsciously. Following is a brief history of my major artworks that lead to this new exhibition.


Search 1997

I expressed, “ I jump to an invisible world where only the imagination can reach—who ever wants to see the invisible has to penetrate more deeply into the visible.” I wanted to detach myself from reality and erase my memory and that is why I built for myself a new world, my world.

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Identity 2002

I saw my work as a celebration of solitude. I started to trace back my memories and I tried to explore my childhood memories. During the work I saw elements that could be mistaken for being part of nature. Left behind, after time one takes it for granted that they belong. But they do not belong; they are simply not made of the same structure. In the end I only found refuge in open spaces.  

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End of Days 2003

Spring 2003, a new war started. I expressed, "Childhood memories flood back to me. I feel hurt. I look at my images, images that were once part of the world that I created myself… Suddenly, I could see through them. I discovered they hid a different reality. I had been living in an illusion, in a world that does not really exist, except in my subconscious. I woke up to discover that my world was changing again."

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Till the End - spirit of the place 2004

Jerusalem is changing rapidly and is transforming to something unknown and unfamiliar for the people who grew up in it. Places are being destroyed and historical memories are being replaced. In fear of the continuation of the erasing of the memory of the city, I started wandering in places that I felt I am connected to spiritually, places where their serenity worries me. At each place images emerged on surfaces of stones, witnessing to the sprit of the place—it was as if the stones were revealing distant memories. I picked a stone from every place and at the same time I took an image of the place. I later on printed that image on the stone; in effect each place has its own image on it. I tried to preserve what is left, and if there was nothing left, I tried to imagine how the place looked in the past. In the future when the time is right, I plan to replace these stones to the places they belong to in order to remind us of the spirit of the original place—till the end.





Kan Yama Kan 2005

After a deep long night sleep, five stories emerged from my imagination and dreams. I live in a world of images that are parts and segments of many buried stories that struggle all the time to come to light. This time, I decided to set free some of my hidden fears. I remember John Berger once saying," As long as there will be people who tell the story, the same story, the nation will continue to survive." Time runs very fast and I am worried about the distance Palestinians suddenly have to their past and history. It feels as if we fail to remember.




The photo stories were presented as a film strip to be seen through the opening of a custom made wooden box. When I started this project, I found out that the concept of Palestine was much bigger than me and I questioned myself then—Who Am I to tell the story of Palestine? Hence I found out that collaboration with other Palestinian artists would enrich this experience. Five noted artists who originally come from five different Palestinian cities painted on the boxes their inspiration and vision of the story. The outcome of their hard and inspiring work was remarkable. Each one of them painted with a passion that celebrated and revived the story of the "Box". We all joined hands for one cause only – to help people to remember, because in preserving memories that nations survive.

Related Photos         

People coming to the exhibition, enjoyed this intimate experience of isolating themselves from the surroundings and to journey to hidden and intimate places in their memories






   Steve Sabella Photo Gallery    

Palestine Art Photography



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