Amoula il Majnoona

Amoula's blog from Ramallah

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Material for a film" goes to Sienna

I was invited to show the piece I made for the Sydney Biennale at Palazzo delle Papesse. The show "System Error: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning" was co-curated by Papesse chief curator Lorenzo Fusi and New York/Dhaka based artist Naeem Mohaiemen. For more information and images of the show: www.papesse.org

On Monday October 16, 1972, Wael Zuaiter left Janet Venn-Brown’s apartment and headed to his apartment at no. 4 Piazza Annibaliano in Rome. He had been reading A Thousand and One Nights on Janet’s couch searching for references to use in an article he was planning to write that evening. He took two buses to get from Janet’s place to his in northern Rome. Just as he reached the elevator inside the entrance to the building of the apartment block where he lived, Israeli assassins fired 12 bullets into his head and chest with 22 caliber pistols at close range.

Wael Zuaiter had become the first victim in Europe in a series of assassinations committed by Israeli agents on Palestinian artists, intellectuals and diplomats that was already underway in the Middle East.

Wael ended an article he wrote for the newspaper L’Espresso two or three weeks before his assassination by quoting the English mystic Francis Thompson:

"That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star"

Wael Zuaiter's dream was to translate A Thousand and One Nights directly from Arabic into Italian. He had been working on this project since his arrival in Italy in 1962. To this day an Italian translation from the Arabic does not exist, all the Italian translations are from other translations.

Wael had photocopied 4000 pages of one of the oldest Arabic editions from a library in Rome. He asked Laila Baido, a woman from Sardinia living in Rome, to help with the translation and they worked on it for many years. Janet and I searched for her last December, so I could see his xeroxes and their translations of the first book, but no one knew anything regarding her whereabouts.

The night Wael was killed he had volume 2 of the book in his pocket. Twelve of the bullets entered his body but there was a thirteenth bullet which pierced through the book and got lodged in its spine. Janet kept this book hidden for thirty years, recently she donated it to the Wael Zuaiter Center in Massa Carrara. On December 5th, 2005, I took a train to Massa Carrara to meet his old friends and to document the book. I photographed each page the bullet had gone through, until I could no longer see marks or imprints from the bullet.

I went into training at a shooting center in Sydney, Australia to learn how to use a gun. After my training, I shot 1000 blank white books with a 22 calibre pistol. The same gun the Israeli Mossad used to hunt and kill Palestinians in Europe.

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