Yazeed, me, and the Qalqilya Zoo
Yazeed and I decided to head out to the Qalqilya Zoo today. Today was the first time Yazeed has been able to drive his car out of Ramallah and over to Qalqilya in 7 years. (Obviously he hasn't been able to due to the Israeli closures and restrictions on freedom of movement)
I think the last time I was in Qalqilya was in 2004 to document the wall which has completely encircled the town and totally cut it off from its agricultural lands, has separated families and
crushed vital trade links.
The zoo is actually really interesting in terms of public space. There is a playground for the kids, a swimming pool, families and friends gathered in large circles sitting in the gardens socializing and eating together. Its incredibly relaxing and a very calm and peaceful atmosphere. Its also amazingly kitsch, my favorite thing being the wall made out of animal bones inside the museum, sort of reminded me of the Capuchin Bone Church in Rome (its made out of the bones of 4000 monks).
I have been obsessed with the Zoo for some time now for several reasons. When the Israelis entered Qalqilya during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the male giraffe was killed. Gunfire, tear-gas and explosions were all around the zoo and he panicked and ran frenziedly in circles around his cage ending up slamming his head into a metal bar and he fell to the ground and died. His mate was pregnant and ended up miscarrying from depression. The zoo's doctor decided to stuff both Brownie (the male giraffe) and the child. Three zebras died from inhaling Israeli forces' tear gas during an invasion. He stuffed them too.
Slowly this living zoo is turning into a collection of mummified animals frozen in time. The section of the zoo that hosts these dead animals has become a major attraction. (By the way they built the structure to host the giraffe around him after he was stuffed). The symbolism of this and how it reflects our own situation....our towns being slowly choked to death... is too much.
Brownie is actually on exhibit in Germany at this years Documenta. German artist Peter Friedl visited the zoo and asked to borrow the giraffe for the exhibition. Personally I was really disapointed when I saw Brownie in Germany. He is just standing there in the middle of the exhibition hall, you have no idea who he is, where he came from, what the story behind him is...nothing.
The most depressing part of the day was witnessing the Syrian bear desperately trying to bang his way out of his cage.