“Disarming Design” collective in Palestine displays its newest array of objects, all of which combine art with function and “represent Palestinian culture in its current reality”. Exhibition runs 27 October through 15 November 2014 at International Academy of Art Palestine, Ramallah, Palestine as part of Qalandiya International biennial art fair.

The front page of Disarming Design's website with a contemporary Ramallah 'Arabaya [seller's cart] for kids', wood, paint, and wheels, by Maher Shaheen, Annelys De Vet and Ahmed M Uwaidat. Image courtesy DisarmingDesign.ps
The front page of Disarming Design’s website with a contemporary Ramallah ‘Arabaya [seller’s cart] for kids’, wood, paint, and wheels, by Maher Shaheen, Annelys De Vet and Ahmed M Uwaidat. Image courtesy DisarmingDesign.ps

Contemporary design as discourse

Disarming Design from Palestine, headed by Dutch designer Annelys de Vet, began in 2012 as a collaboration between International Academy of Art Palestine and ICCO, a Dutch NGO working to “create fair and lasting economic opportunities for people living in poverty”. Art and creative design professionals, students, with artisans and local small businesses, worked together to “build bridges of collaboration through a cultural think tank and a collective visual and conceptual development of projects.”

The initiative provides a catalyst for “design as discourse in Palestine”, with art and design providing a singularly powerful vehicle for meaningful discussion “within a community about our political, social and cultural realities”; for instance, realities which appear in this hotel lobby-sized “Watchtower Ashtray” by Khaled Hourani. On the shiny silver cylinder below the mouth for the rubbish bin is printed text that reads, “Security seriously harms you and others around you”.

Khaled Hourani (designer) and Abu Muath (metalsmith), 'Watchtower ashtray', metal, 30 cm x 80 cm. Text reads: 'Security seriously harms you and others around you'. Image courtesy the artist and Disarming Design.
Khaled Hourani (designer) and Abu Muath (metalsmith), ‘Watchtower ashtray’, metal, 30 cm x 80 cm. Text reads: ‘Security seriously harms you and others around you’. Image courtesy the artists and Disarming Design.

Disarming Design will put on its next showcase at the International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah/Al Bireh from 27 October 2014 as part of the biennial art fair, Qalandiya International 2014 which ends 15 November 2014. Around 50 artisans, designers, and artists will show their work in the Disarming Design exhibition at QI; from wearable fashions to kitchenware and table games, all are equally thought-provoking as they are functional, with the tireless Palestinian sense of humour ever-present – perhaps flippant but never glib – and always straight to the point…

Such as this piece sure to be missing from many an NGO worker’s closet: the “Disengaged Observer Outfit“. Made of the sort of fabric usually seen on tents for political rallies or weddings, it is designed for the “neutral outsider” in Palestine and allows the wearer the opportunity to be “disengaged yet still empathetic”.

Tommi Vasko and Tessel Bruhl, 'Disengaged Observer outfit', 2014, Bedouin fabric, in the Disarming Design collection. Image courtesy the artist and Disarming Design.
Tommi Vasko and Tessel Bruhl, ‘Disengaged Observer outfit’, 2014, Bedouin fabric, in the Disarming Design collection. Image courtesy the artists and Disarming Design.

Red, black, white, and green – the perfect duds for your next Orientialist game night… if you like games that can’t be won or even played, as in this exquisite olive-wood set designed by Mark Jan Van Tellingen, carved by Majed Abu Farha and Nader Rishmawee. “Watchtowers and Watertanks” comes with suggested use guidelines and the “aesthetics of chess but no possibility for movement”.

'Watchtowers and Watertanks game', olive wood, size variable. Designed by Mark Jan Van Tellingen, carved by Majed Abu Farha and Nader Rishmawee. Image courtesy the artist and Disarming Design.
‘Watchtowers and Watertanks game’, olive wood, size variable. Designed by Mark Jan Van Tellingen, carved by Majed Abu Farha and Nader Rishmawee. Image courtesy the artists and Disarming Design.

For the gift that warms a loved one on a cool day, or dampened, protects one’s face from tear gas, a Disarming Design scarf might be just the thing. High-quality scarves are available in price brackets suited to many budgets, ranging from “Made in China” (embroidered cotton) to “Everywhere Palestine” on printed silk (designs from Tessel Bruhl and Tariq Salsa respectively).

The key target for Disarming Design collective is not only to produce aesthetically appealing and well-made things; the founders aim “to contribute to sustainable cultural and economic development in Palestine, through stimulating working relationships between artists, designers and manufacturers.”

If you’re disappointed not to be able to buy Disarming Designs in your hometown (yet!) and you won’t find yourself in Ramallah anytime soon, don’t worry; many of the products are in Disarming Design’s online shop (orders are processed weekly and ship internationally via Belgium). And the collection does get around; DD’s last stop outside of Palestine was in March 2014, in Flanders, Belgium for the “Conflict and Design” showcase in the 7th International Design triennial, in which contemporary designers/makers evaluated their own perspective “in relation to conflictual situations.”

I’m so looking forward to checking out Disarming Design’s showcase this year at Qalandiya International. While I’m there, I hope to obtain these “Awakening Goggles” by Tessel Bruhl and Lajali Rishmawee, intended to “catalyse a broader and more open view”. Even as my sight is covered, I will become un-blinded to the conflict by wearing the eyes of a Palestinian woman. And if she’s doesn’t know or remember what freedom of movement looks like, for the flight back home, I’ll return the favour of unobstructed vision and request a window seat just for her.

Designed by Tessel Bruhl, embroidered by Lajali Rishmawee, 'Awakening Goggles', 2014, textile and embroidery. Image courtesy DisarmingDesign.ps
Designed by Tessel Bruhl, embroidered by Lajali Rishmawee, ‘Awakening Goggles’, 2014, textile and embroidery. Image courtesy the artists and DisarmingDesign.ps

More links and information

Exhibition details:Disarming Design” is showing at Qalandiya International, in the International Academy of Art Palestine, Ramallah, Palestine/West Bank, from 27 October through 15 November 2014. 

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Disarming Design from Palestine
Qalandiya International
Qalandiya International

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