Free As Air
Trace monotype on paper
17.5 in x 25 in // 45 cm x 63.5 cm
In the tale of The Green Bird, an evil stepmother eats all of the food in the house. She decides to cook her stepson into a stew so as not to disappoint her husband who will soon return home from work. The boy’s sister tries to warn her brother, but she is unable to stop the stepmother. As the father sits down to dinner, objects in the house try to warn him of his wife’s misdeeds. Far too hungry to take notice of the talking objects and the absence of his son, the father proceeds to eat his stew. He sucks the bones clean and throws them out the window. The girl, weeping, wraps the boy’s bones in a green scarf and buries them nearby. One day, the girl is overcome with grief and goes to visit her brother’s makeshift grave and decides to dig up his bones. Suddenly, a beautiful green bird emerges. It is her brother, returned from the realm of the dead as a vengeful talking bird. Flying high over a nearby village gathering, the bird tells the town of his father and stepmother’s transgressions. He kills his gluttonous parents by dropping nails into their mouths and lives happily with his sister.
Palestinian folktales exist primarily through the oral tradition. There is no fixed version of each story, no original author. They are polyvocal in nature, a form which invokes conviviality and bestows each story with a nimbleness to traverse time and space. In folklore, inanimate objects, flesh, animals, and plants, witness and speak. They take matters into their own hands to stop injustices. Mutation is a formal and conceptual theme throughout. Women can become pregnant by the love of the sun and the moon; bodies of water can transform someone into a cat or gazelle; a child can be born from an olive tree; a woman can turn her lover into a pomegranate seed to avoid being caught by her wicked ghoul husband. Folktales exist in relation with the land(scape), corresponding to known sacred sites (trees, springs, stone mounds) throughout Palestine.
Each element is individually printed and pasted/layered together to create a single image from a folktale.
Photography by Hashem Abukhadra