In 1922, The Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society published a seminal article about Palestinian rituals and beliefs: The Haunted Springs and Wells of Palestine by Tawfiq Canaan. In it, Canaan wrote extensively about the rites of every day life that were similar, if not identical, for Muslims, Jews and Christians. The hills, shrines, wells and trees bound people together, a landscape that hosted one diverse and rich culture. Traditional beliefs were stronger than religious differences.Zionism put an end to that. The links to the land were severed. The long process of uprooting left a waste land.
I was desperately trying to find traces of these native bonds to the land in Palestine. Not a rhetoric of ethnic belonging, but a connection to the matter. I found a curious collection of stones, gathered on Palestinian hills over the last 15 years by one Mohamad Badwan. I thought this showed exactly the love and care for inorganic matter that has been lost. The stones in Mohamad’s collection are special. He picked them up from the ground because he saw other features in them: skulls, both human and animal, faces, mouths, birds, dinosaur eggs, funny growths, etc. His stones are a result of careful and watchful looking down. It has not been an abstract territory he observed, the symbolic Promised Land, the axis of conflict, but just ground, the living surface of the Earth. So his collection was put on display, carefully composed, in his shop at Altereh St. in Ramallah. The shelves are weighed down by hundreds of his finds, the counter hosts some of the „fruits” and the entrance is rammed with „dinosaur eggs”. The stones have relationships to each other and Mohamad visibly suffers if his compositions are altered.
I saw Canaan’s demons in the stones. Those shared by the Muslims, Christians and Jews, which Cannan described in such detail. On the top of Mohamad’s reading, I saw the intensity of non-human life. And the real bond to the land.