The Graduates: Salama Safadie, 31, Majdal Shams

Institution: Bezalel, photography department; work: Untitled.

Ellie Armon Azoulay
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Ellie Armon Azoulay

Salama Safadie’s final project had no title. It was a consolidated effort by a student who grasped the role of the artist in society and the responsibility involved in creating art. The concept “archive” has become an integral part in the discourse of art and photography in the past decade, and Safadie also dealt with that. Like others, Safadie built an archive composed of albums of families from his surroundings, residents of Majdal Shams, first and foremost a man named Mohammad Kadamani.

But unlike other projects of this type, Safadie did not remain within the personal and the particular, but focused on the public aspects of an entire community. In 1981 the military administration was canceled with the passing of the Golan Heights Law, and since then the status of the residents of Majdal Shams, like most Arab residents of the Golan, has not been defined. They are neither Israeli nor Syrian citizens. And as in the case of most of their brothers, the State of Israel also confiscated most of their land and declared it “state land”; a substantial part of it was declared a “firing zone.”

Safadie’s work incorporated the residents’ documentation of the events of 1981. On one side of the space 42 scans of printed photos (six rows, seven per row) were shown in a black frame sites photographed by people from their balconies. On the other side was a video composed of television broadcasts recorded by the residents at the time.

Safadie’s journey, which began several years ago, was clearly influenced by his being “undefined,” by “the fact that I am a resident rather than a citizen within the areas of land, the village and the house in which my grandfather was born even before the state that issued my ID card was established,” he explains.
“Through this project I break down the limitations involved in the status of ‘undefined,’ by recreating a self-definition free of force, constraints and vagueness. I create both structures and narratives those of the State of Israel and those of my community and confront and contrast the two.”

Work by Salama Safadie.Credit: Mohammad Kadamani