The Time of A Square - by Ayed Arafah
My intervention at the Clock Square in Ramallah, Palestine - one of the city's main landmarks - was sparked by the decision of the municipality to commission the construction of a sculpture to China to replace the old clock tower. An exuberant amount of money was paid by the City of Ramallah to have a bronze sculpture made in China, with money that could have been better invested locally.
Considering the city square as the reflection of the spirit of the city itself I asked myself: how can we - in a city that is under military occupation, with so many political hardships - be represented by a sculpture made in China?
During the period of the construction works, I passed by Clock Square every day. Looking at Palestinian workers building a wood scaffolding around the tower I finally realized that it was precisely the image that best reflected the city: messy, unfinished, hand crafted by people living it.
I wanted that image to be paused and be the monument.
General view of Clock Square, Ramallah.
Photo: Ayed Arafah
One night, around 10pm. I took my paint bucket, my camera, my jacket and I climbed up the tower. I sat on top of the tower, I smoked a cigarette, took some pictures, and started to paint the wood structure.
Top painting of the paused monument.
Photo: Ayed Arafah
Sketch for the paused monument.
Photo: Ayed Arafah
It was in that moment that people started noticing my presence and in no time there were more than fifty people gathered almost like an audience watching myself painting. Soon after, the police came and ordered me to come down. I tried to refuse, but after a while I was forced to come down from the tower.
The conversation that occurred while being questioned by the police in a public sphere, was perhaps one of the highlights of the intervention:
Policeman: ‘Who do you work for?’
Ayed: ‘I work for myself.’
Policeman: ‘what are you doing here?’
Ayed: ‘I felt that this work should be captured here at this point of the process… so I came to do my job like you are doing yours. Do you know how much it costs to bring this bronze structure from China?’
Ayed: ‘More than all your salaries of five years.’
As time went by, the discussion proceeded and people kept watching. In the end, the police decided to let me go but asked for my ID number.
When the policeman looked for a piece of paper to write down my ID number but could not find one, so he picked up his cigarette packet, ripped a piece of it, wrote down my ID number and put it in his pocket.
Today the Clock tower no longer has a clock.
Perhaps a reflection on how we are forced to forget about time and just pretend that we live in a period of triumph as we contemplate the bronze man climbing the top of the tower.
No one can really see the structure as triumphant. What we see as we look up is the back of a defeated man made of bronze and brought from China.
Ayed Arafah is a visual artist working with video, installation pieces, paintings and murals. Born in Jerusalem, Arafah grew up and lives in Dehesheh refugee camp in Bethlehem. Graduated from the International Art Academy in Palestine he was a recipient of the A.M Qattan Foundation Young Artist Award for his work Bog-Jet Bahar / Sea Package, and was part of “Horizon” in the Mosaic Rooms Gallery in London in 2010. He was a resident artist at Città dell’arte in Biella, Italy as well as a participant of the “See You in the Hague” art project. Arafah’s work has been showcased in several venues across Europe and the Middle East including Oslo’s Khio University, Hydrarcy in Cairo, Art Wave Ramallah, Brighton University, and “Truth is Concrete” program in Graz, Austria.