Joret Ed Dahab

Joret Ed Dahab, Jenin, April 2002

Joret Ed Dahab, means the hole where one can search for gold.



Stockholm 2002-09-01

What’s in my power? As the human being I am, born into a specific life situation, in a country: Sweden, in my profession: visual artist… what do I experience, what do I see, what do I react on? How come there’s a feeling that ones time is not free? That freedom of thought doesn’t cohere with freedom of act. What is it like to be occupied by something that has been forced upon you? What happens a person living in a country that is occupied? It’s not just that the land you walk on, the air space above your head and the water resources, are controlled, but also your communication with others, those who are outside the check points where you need specific laisser passé to go to work or take your children to school… Also your movements of thought become limited. As Waleed, a friend in Palestine, expressed it ”My mind is occupied”, ”I have no time to think about anything else than survival”.

In December 2001 I went to Palestine for the first time, together with my colleague Ana Valdés, to – according to the invitation – make contacts and formulate ideas for a future cultural exchange. We have the belief that cultural arenas are spaces where different perspectives can be presented and discussed in another way than in media and in the political discourses. Last spring the emails from our contact persons in Palestine got more and more desperate. Ramallah was under siege, and now also Jenin was struck, they needed help and witnesses to what was happening there. Ana and I went to Palestine and spent April 20 – 23, 2002 in Jenin. In media one is informed about what is happening through numbers, but we met persons, of course. The counted dead and wounded and those who survived have names, they are somebody. They all have a name and they have relatives and friends.

In June we published a web site showing 450 photos, a number of recorded stories told by people who lived in the camp. There is also a detailed map on the site showing every house, which were destroyed and those possible to repair. Now, as I am writing this, more homes and quarters have been destroyed after several new raids

Even in democratic countries in peace it seems to be, and I wonder how come, a communication gap between people and the elected politicians, who have been given a mission and therefore can, change structures in the society. Do we really trust the ones we elect? Do the ones we elect trust us? The question is: Do we really wish each other well?

Seven Israelis dead and fiftyfour wounded in the blast of a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. An invasion of tanks in Nablus is the revenge, more dead, but now Palestinians. Everyone in Israel and Palestine has someone close who have been attacked. One month after the publication of our web site I get an e-mail from a man in Canada who asks me if I hate Jews. His e-mail is aggressive, I wonder if I really should answer it.

From: ”Daniel” To: Subject: Curious??? ”I was just curious why you don’t just admit the truth that you are Nazi scum? I’m certain if you had lived around 60 years ago you would have raced over to Aushwitz and Treblinka to join in on the fun. I hope evil cunts like you get cancer and have a painful lingering death.” He ends writing his full name and address.

I answered: ”Your mail to me is violent. Why? You are in Canada and have the possibilities to raise questions how we all can live together in this world. As my friends, both Israelians and Palestinians, I don’t exclude people because of their sex (as you do in your mail to me) race, religion or colour of skin. We can all live together if atrocities stop, violence is not used anywhere (so I think you should stop using it, to speak is to act). Cecilia.

Two weeks later he wrote to me again: From: ”Daniel”, To: Subject: My apologies if you construed my previous mail as violent., however….. My nasty e-mail to you previously was simply an example of the sort of visceral response I have towards people whom I perceive, in all honesty, as being very similar in certain key respects to people who tortured and murdered several members of my family. I was just curious why you don’t boycott people who do this: An explosion at Hebrew University in Jerusalem kills 7 and injures 80+. Police say the blast is a terror attack. Is it because you simply hate Jews????? Yours truly, Daniel.

I answered that I don’t hate Jews, that we all are individuals and we can’t accept to be packaged in groups like: religion, nationality and so forth and that there are many Jews who discuss this, for example the organization ”Not in my name” . In war people become anonymous, but each of us have a responsibility for how we act towards our neighbour. Activists around the world organize, many of them young people, arguing and acting for human rights, that every human being should have the right to affect and change the life situation he or she is born into. I also wrote that I admired the organizations ”Bat Shalom” and ”Women in black” in which Israeli and Palestinian women cooperate and help each other to handle every-day-life situations, like: Israeli women meet up and take care of Palestinian children when they are going to school, so that they don’t have to wait for hours at a check point. I think these women should have a place in the politics because through their actions they show possibilities to solve conflicts.

During the nineties a slogan circulated: ”The personal is the political” and thus the general. My work was then about sexuality and borders between the sexes. Sexuality is one of our driving forces we use in our creativity and in contact with others but is acted out in a private sphere. Sexuality has become something we demarcate and often should hide. Sexuality is often exploited commercially, the Porn Industry is said to be the worlds biggest industry, and that is not strange, because the pornographic image is about something that everybody indulges in as much as they desire. But how can one allow an ”industry” to create so many preconceptions of the female and male body, or a state? Propaganda works this way, by creating images that occupies our mind until we make them our own.

How can I accept to become a passive receiver of this? In a society there’s a need for people who stir ”our perception” – the way we look upon things. The Porn industry would have too great an influence on the representation of sexuality if there weren’t other images concerning sexuality, in our education, at Maternity Clinics, in the Fine Arts, in the fashions and so forth. Within each of these areas images are made and they all reflect a contemporary understanding of sexuality. Images give us information, images reflect and speak to us. Suddenly all images of the photo models wearing wide jeans is being generally accepted and becomes a part of our conception of what we think is looking smart. In the same way we ”understand” a certain type of music because we are not alone and isolated in the listening, it’s played here, there and everywhere and we hear it unconsciously, get used to it and then likes it partly because we recognize it. We communicate with each other direct and indirect.

A contemporary artist has the power to connect the images made to the impressions images make, to see the relation to history, source, reference and visualize a future. These connections span a vast and limitless zone. (One has to be able to demarcate a certain area, a context, to be able to really understand and mediate what one sees, this is happening within each person.)

The title of my piece is ”Joret Ed Dahab, means the hole where one can search for gold”. The large photograph was one of the 500 photos I took in Jenin and the only one I took because I saw something beautiful. When we walked inside what was left of the house, passing a set of stairs, there was a remarkable light and I turned around to be in it. The light came through holes in the wall and ceiling and through the window I saw a landscape of houses, an infinite landscape of shadows and voices. The borders dissolved, the holes shone and I saw how fragile they were, all these borders we build on, as castles in the sand, traces of a game that is no longer played. Mohammed Abualrob has written Joret Ed Dahab in Arabic on one of the paper sheets. This is the original name of the place, the part of the refugee camp in Jenin, which was destroyed in the beginning of April 2002. Mohammed grew up in Jenin and he is since February 2002 studying in Uppsala, Sweden, in the course ”Peace and Conflict”. I have made a drawing of his text. These drawings are an important part of the work. I don’t know how to write in Arabic, it means it’s not possible to understand another person’s situation, but it’s possible to imagine or feel it.

This work is exhibited at Botkyrka Konsthall, Sweden, 14th of Sept-3rd of Dec 2002
Fischer Gallery, Seattle, 11th of November-14th of December 2002
Reset Gallery Philadelphia, February-March, 2003
Edsviks Konsthall, Stockholm, March 2003
AAO Gallery, Tokyo, March 2004

Botkyrka Konsthall, Botkyrka, Sweden, 2002

The world’s smallest bible thrown in the biggest man-made hole

The replica of the world’s smallest bible is made by bookbinder and rastaman Jabulani Dube from Kimberley, South Africa. . (150X80 C-print, analog panorama-negative)

The piece is comprised of:
– A replica of the World´s Smallest Bible.
– A photo of the original in Stensele Church, Sweden
– An edited video (4: 33 mins) of the action, the 8th of May 2000. The bible is dropped from a light aircraft into The Big Hole in Kimberley, Cape Province, South Africa. (Click here to see the film)
– A photograph (150X80) of bookbinder Jabulani Dube with the bible in his hand

In April, 2000 when I first visited South Africa I met Jabulani Dube. He worked at a bookbindery. I asked him what it means to be a rasta and we ended up having a long discussion about religion. He also told me he grew up in Kimberley, a society founded on De Beers diamond trading (Boers) and that The Big Hole is the biggest man-made hole in the world and that it was digged by black people. I replied saying that the smallest bible in the world is in Stensele church in Sweden, I asked him if he could make a copy of this man-made book. After a long conversation we agreed that this copy of The smallest bible in the world should be unwritten because life is all about ”writing it every day in one’s actions”. He and his little daughter followed me to Kimberley. We went in a light aircraft and dropped the bible in the hole.

The Big Hole is claimed to be the largest hole excavated by hand. It has a perimeter 1,7 km, deph of No 1 shaft is 1,100 m. 22.700 metric tons of ground was excavated from The Big Hole by black labour. 14,5 millions carat of diamonds were produced during 1717-1914. The owners of The Big Hole were De Beers company (white people). The mine was active 1871-1914.

The smallest bible in the world (to the right), at Stensele church, Luleå, Sweden. (An ordinary bible to the left)


Published first in B A N G Magazine (S), Septemper 2000. Then in Filter magazine among others.

This piece has been shown at:
Market Theatre Gallery, Johannesburg in May 2000
BildMuseet, Umeå, Sweden, 2001
Gothenburg Filmfestival 2011 among other filmscreenings. See CV
Financing through the SIDA project Cultures in Dialogue, initiated and organized by Bild Museet, Umea, Sweden. I worked as a Guest Professor at Umea Academy of Fine Arts and in this project I was invited as a lecturer at the Fine Arts Department at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa, for two months (17 April through 1 June).

This piece was also supported by The Swedish Institute











Private Business

Private Business

First shown at Schaper Sundberg Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden, August through October 1999. ”I can see you but you can’t see me” was shown 2011 in the Lust och Last group show National Museum, Stockholm, also shown in a touring exhibition Konstfeminism throughout Sweden 2005-2006. ”Corner” was sold and placed at the University in Skövde where it caused a lot of discussion and an answer from the Minister of Culture
(se below on this page).

The large size of the prints is necessary to see all the details. They are analog negatives (Hasselblad panorama camera).
The photo series originates from my fictitious idea of an international egg and spermbank accessible to everyone. The first photograph, entitled; The International egg and spermbank is of a city and the air space immidiately above it. The air is also an image of an unlimited space, which stems from the fact that many egg and sperm donators and recievers make contact in cyberspace; the collective fertilization space. Cyberspace does not exist as a space, it could however exists as soon as one acts.

The international egg and spermbank (Lambda process, Analog panorama-negative, C-type print 3mX1,5m.)

Corner (Analog panorama-negative, C-type print 3mX1,5m.)

The house to the left is the only library there is for womens literature in London. The couple has a relationship. There is always a power relation as well as trust in relationships. The structure of our society is built by relationships. The corner is the part that is bearing, as is trust in a relationship.


I can see you but you can´t see me (Analog panorama-negative, C-type print 3mX1,5m.)

The photograph is playing with the viewer’s gaze, the vagina is big as a head – hence the size of the photo in the presentation – and ”the vagina sees the viewer in the eyes” and says ”I can see you but you can see me” and at the same time the woman’s head is gone and her hands make signs for eyes.

Fotot leker med betraktarens blick. Vaginan är stort som ett huvud — därav storleken på fotot i presentationen — och ”vaginan ser betraktaren i ögonen” och säger ”I can see you but you can´t see me” och samtidigt är hennes huvud borta och händerna gör tecken för ögon.



The weathergirl (Analog panorama-negative, C-type print 3mX1,5m.)

This is taken in the back yard of a building where a musician lives.

He records sounds from the atmosphere via these antennas. The woman has braces. She is a witch of today, telling stories and connecting via her braces to her rings to the antennas. Her sayings weaves into the radiowaves.


The Blue Angel Bar (Analog panorama-negative, C-type print 3mX1,5m.)

The woman is balancing and trying to find her axis and relax, the man under her is contemplating his childhood. This act affects the whole shivering moving creative structure of the society. The society is made of relationships. In this way every private and intimate as well as public act by every person is political.


I love myself and I understand you think I´m difficult. (Analog panorama-negative, C-type print 3mX1,5m.)

The fool (Analog panorama-negative, C-type print 3mX1,5m.)

”The fool” is about an inevitable ideal-state-of-mind. To be foolish is a kind of openess. The swan is calmly lying in the trash in her own beauty. It’s stupid to build a nest at such a place, but on the other hand: what can you do?


God is love (C-type print 110 x 70cm)

The photo was placed at the far end of the gallery. The title is taken from the tattoo on her arm.

Scarring is a documentation of a scarring, with an explanatory text mounted beside on the wall. You have a conception about something, an ideology, you are part of a political discussion etc. An experience can cut the belief behind one’s conception. This is how I work.


Så här svarar Kulturministern angående fotot ”Corner” i Skövde.

Fråga för skriftligt svar. Den 20 december

Fråga 2002/03:356 av Yvonne Andersson (kd) till kulturminister Marita Ulvskog om konstnärlig utsmyckning av myndigheter.

Staten byggnader, myndigheter och liknande utsmyckas med stora mängder konst. Konsten ska bidra till en god arbetsmiljö för de människor som arbetar eller vistas i byggnaderna. Konsten köps in av Statens konstråd som ansvarar för den konstnärliga utsmyckeningen av samtliga statliga byggnader. Inköpen görs i samverkan med representanter från den myndighet där konsten ska placeras.Självklart är det svårt att göra alla nöjda när det gäller val av konst till en byggnad. Vissa människor kan vara mycket kritiska till en målning eller en skulptur som andra älskar. I vissa fall kan det dock finnas en bred samstämmighet kring ett verk. På Skövde högskola finns i entrén ett målning som många är kritiska till eftersom den ger associationer som inte alla uppskattar. Målningen föreställer en man som ligger på backen, och en kvinna som står på honom. Så många har nu blivit illa berörda av målningen att högskola beslutat att arbeta för att den ska tas bort. Högskolan får dock inte själva ta bort eller flytta den utan detta måste göras i samråd med Statens konstråd. Trots att högskolan tagit kontakt med Statens konstråd och förklarat att de är missnöjda med målningen har inte konstrådet gett dem tillåtelse att flytta målningen.

Vad avser ministern att göra för att öka myndigheternas möjlighet att påverka den konstnärliga utsmyckningen i deras närmiljö?

Svar på fråga 2002/03:356 om konstnärlig utsmyckning av myndigheter. Den 15 januari

Kulturminister Marita Ulvskog.

Yvonne Andersson har ställt frågan till mig vad jag avser att göra för att öka myndighetens möjlighet att påverka den konstnärliga utsmyckningen i deras närmiljö.Frågan är föranledd av en diskussion som förts efter att ett konstverk av Cecilia Parsberg, tidigare professor vid Umeå konsthögskola och en av våra internationellt mest framstående konstnärer idag, blivit placerat av Statens konstråd i entrén till Skövde högskola. Yvonne Andersson menar att många blivit illa berörda av verket och att högskolan beslutat att arbeta för att det ska tas bort, men att Konstrådet inte gett dem tillåtelse att flytta verket.

Jag delar Yvonne Anderssons uppfattning att man ska efterfråga och respektera brukarens uppfattning om de konstverk som ska placeras i den miljö som är en del av deras vardag och jag menar att det är viktigt att finna goda former för samråd så att denna uppfattning på ett lämpligt sett kanaliseras in i beslutsfattandet. Detta samråd bör präglas av öppenhet från alla parter och en ömsesidig respekt för den speciella kompetens man företräder. Men att man, även med, dessa goda förutsättningar, skulle kunna utesluta alla möjligheter till konflikter i ett sammanhang när man diskuterar och besluar om frågor med koppling till samtidskonsten menar jag är orimligt, om det ens är önskvärt.

Som jag har kunnat inhämta från Konstrådet har de vedertagna samrådsformerna iakttagits i detta projekt. Högskolan i Skövde är ett mindre projekt utan beställda konstverk där man erbjudits möjligheten att föra samrådsdiskussionen genom att verk placerats under en prövotid. Enligt uppgift kommer det nämnda konstverket, som en följd av den diskussion som har förts mellan företrädare för högskolan och Konstrådets projektledare, inte få sin placering i Skövde högskola efter prövotiden. Enligt min uppfattning visar detta att de arbetsformer som Konstrådet praktiserar innebär att brukaren/mottagaren har ett fullgott inflytande över vilka verk som ska placeras i deras arbetsmiljö.

Samtidigt vill jag betona betydelsen av att en verksamhet som Statens Konstråds förmår att föra ut även de senaste och kanske mest krävande konstuttrycken i den offentliga miljön. Detta är en uppgift förenad med vissa uppenbara svårigheter, men som jag menar är central för verksamhetens konstnärliga och kulturpolitiska legitimitet. Dessa konstverk kräver noggranna introduktioner och andra former av uppbackning, men de kräver också ett öppet sinne från mottagarhåll inför det nya och okända.

Det är inte alltid det omedelbara intrycket av ett konstverk som blir det bestående, det är inte heller det mest lättillgängliga och begripliga verket som blir det mest betydelsefulla. Det omdelbara motstånd man kan känna inför något hos ett konstverk kan med tiden visa sig vara det som är dess viktigaste kvalitet. Att betydande samtida konstverk ändå kan visa sig olämpliga att placera i vissa miljöer hör självfallet också till denna bild. Jag har fullt förtroende för Konstrådets förmåga att på bästa sätt hantera dessa svåra avvägningar.