At the end of a film presentation of life today in Palestine, the invited audience at the Citizens’ Theatre sat in silence. Almost in tears, organiser, Sahira Dar spoke for everyone when she said: ‘It is very emotional. This short film tells us more than an long talk. We can see for ourselves how apartheid destroys living and takes lives.’
The event was the launch of a thought provoking exhibition by Friends of Al-Aqsa showing photographs and art works highlighting how apartheid is operated by the state of Israel in its dealings with Palestine and people in Palestine.
Those who use apartheid in this context are witnesses to the inhumane way Israel treats Palestine and Palestinians.
One of the exhibitors was Edinburgh based Phil Chetwynd who has spent several weeks in different small Palestinian towns in recent summers giving photographic and camera workshops: ‘I’ve become aware that Israel is a rogue state. It is doing things which are in flagrant breach of international laws. It is stealing Palestinian land. Effectively this is ethnic cleansing.’
He spoke to the film which was shown. Made by his host Bilal Tamimi in collaboration with an Israeli film-maker is shows how Israeli troops shot tear gas at a small crowd of youths, how the troops manhandled children and women and it showed some of the wounds caused by rubber bullets. The attack on the villagers appeared to go on for most of a day. Said Phil: ‘skunk water is also power-hosed over people and some of the land. This is an obnoxious, poisonous water which rendered one house that was doused, uninhabitable for more than two months.’
The exhibition runs till Friday 24 February and is in the foyer of the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. It shows some of the photographs resulting from Phil’s workshop in October last year in Nabi Saleh where he worked with local man Ahmad Al-Bazz to give a group of young people aged from 11 to 17 photography skills.
Their collage in the exhibition shows the portrait of an earlier workshop attendee from 2010. The 17-year-old boy, Youssef Ikhlayl was shot dead in January 2011 by a bullet from an Israeli settler colony while he was working beside his father in the family field. ‘This exhibition is dedicated to him,’ says his picture caption. ‘No one has ever been arrested for his death.’
Artists and photographers from around the UK and beyond were invited to submit work for the exhibition on the theme – ‘This is Apartheid.’ Said Friends of Al-Aqsa spokeswoman, Sahira Dar: ‘This took months to organise. We selected those we felt represented the theme best. Artists include some from Glasgow, one from Cambridge and a drawing by a school boy in Gaza. They cover all ages and include professional photographers and artists as well as amateurs.’ She said the Friends would like to have the exhibition tour different venues.
Added Sahira: ‘I would like people outside of the pro-Palestine groups to come and view these images and be moved by them and go home and talk about what they’ve seen.’
A tidal wave of joy swept through Govanhill on Saturday 4 February when film star Peter Mullen formally opened the first phase of the Calder Street baths. Several hundred people turned out to celebrate the occasion which was the justification of an 11 year running battle by the local community to reclaim the shuttered building.
‘United we will swim,’ is their motto. And that dream took the determined residents from the day the listed building was abruptly closed by Glasgow City Council and long term protesters evicted with such force that the angry community rioted in protest to Peter Mullen accepting a golden key from an Edwardian styled swimmer to unlock the front door.
It now leads into the original entrance hallway with various spaces functioning as offices and small meeting rooms. Progressively, the building will be brought into use with the three pools all included in the plan. Many new features are in the offing – including a cafe, an indoor garden and flexible space to use as a cinema or entertainment area.
Long term supporter Piper Craig McFarlane, in his Ancient Hunting McFarlane tartan, was delighted to play for the important opening.
Local resident Michael Rodger got into the swim of things in the tailor made, striped, swim suit. While the crowd assembled, Voicebeat choir entertained with many songs old and new including some of the campaign’s old rallying verses. As ‘Freedom is coming’ wafted around the tiled foyer and ‘This pool is my pool…. it belongs to you and me’ echoed through the new offices, mild concern spread among the organisers as one of the main guests – Glasgow City Councillor Archie Graham, overseer of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, failed to materalise in time.
More songs filled the gap till a harassed and apologetic Councillor arrived having been delayed.
Then everyone went outside to take pictures of Peter Mullen, the Edwardian Swimmer and the other VIPs such as local MSP Nicola Sturgeon who is on the Board of the Govanhill Baths Trust.
Peter Mullan gave a witty speech recollecting his boyhood spent in the pool. ‘If you stayed in too long over your time, the attendant put your towel in the water. So you had to borrow a bit of your pal’s towel to get dry.’
He taught his daughter to swim at the Govanhill Baths. ‘I couldn’t believe it when they were closed. It is amazing you’ve got to this point with phase 1A complete and I congratulate everyone concerned.’
Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said she’d supported the reopening of the Baths ‘even before I was elected.’ She went on: ‘It is my task to say Thank you to the Campaign and a huge thank you to Fatima Uygun and Andrew Johnson who refused to let the pool die. Their tenacity has delivered this amazing opening today.’
While Councillor Archie Graham said he was delighted to be at the event, he said he’d checked there was no water in the pools yet – ‘I was afraid I might be thrown it!’ he joked.
He recollected his boyhood days of walking from Gorbals to the Calder Street Baths – ‘which seemed miles and miles away.’ He emphasised that the Council was about to launch a ‘community assets transfer’ scheme. ‘We cannot provide all the services we once did, because of the massive budget cuts we have to cope with,’ he said. ‘But something like this pool could be transferred to the community and that stands, four-square, with what you have been doing in making this into a Community Health and Wellbeing Centre.’
Ill health prevented Joe McFadyen, superintendent for 20 years at the Baths, from attending the opening.
Said Andrew Johnson who chairs the Community Trust which now runs the place: ‘This is a fantastic and emotional day. We are celebrating 11 years of a long, long journey to get here. But the journey’s only just begun,’ he warned. ‘The second part of the journey is all about funding.’
The next event will be a film premiere on Saturday 25 February in one of the pools which was used as a ‘set’ while the film was being made.