From Palestine to the Canadian Diaspora

The Multiple Social Biographies of the Musleh Family’s Photographic Archive

in Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
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In this paper I trace the various social biographies of selected family photographs that traveled from Palestine to Canada and depict my parents’ lives in pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank and Jordan, and cover multiple generations from the 1930s to the present day. In this work I answer previously unattended questions; for instance, how and to what extend did the social and cultural meaning of these photographs change as they were removed from the photographic traditions of the Middle East where they were produced and relocated to Canada with my parents? What social and cultural value did these photographs hold for me and my siblings as members of the postmemory generation growing up in Canada and has this significance shifted now that we are adults? Finally, what importance might this photographic archive come to have for my siblings’ children? Utilizing the photographic album that houses the bulk of the family’s photographs produced in Palestine and Jordan as an instrument of social and oral performance, I analyze how the members of my family narrate the multiple and fluid memories, investments and realities that these photographs facilitate.

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Given Kim’s (2005) assertion that the matriarch of the family often takes on the task of compiling and preserving family photographs and albums, as well as Schulz’s (2003) statement that it often falls to the mothers and women in Palestinian families to retain and pass on family history, it is not surprising that my mother was the one who took on this task.

Figures

  • Figure 1

    Some of the oldest photographs in the Musleh family photo album appear on this page

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  • Figure 2

    Some of the most recent photographs in the Musleh family photo album appear on this page

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  • Figure 3

    A sample of the photographs contained in the Ziploc bag, which is stored in the back of the Musleh family photo album

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  • Figure 4

    One of my parents’ wedding portraits taken and developed by photographer Abdilnour Ishaq in 1964 at Photo Star Studios in Nativity Square, Bethlehem. The studio’s business stamp appears on the back of the photograph.

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  • Figure 5

    A studio portrait of my mother, father and brother taken in Bethlehem, c. 1966. Although there is not a studio business stamp on the back of this photograph, my parents believe that it was also taken and developed by photographer Abdilnour Ishaq at Photo Star Studios in Nativity Square, Bethlehem. The handwriting in Arabic that appears on the back of the photograph translates to “Shawki, Samira, Husam.”

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  • Figure 6

    My father in front of his father’s house in Beit Sahour after returning home from college in the United States, c. 1963. The photograph was taken by his cousin George. Nothing appears on the back of this photograph.

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  • Figure 7

    My mother posing for a snapshot on a road in Beit Sahour while accompanying American tourists on a tour of the city guided by my father’s brother-in-law, c. 1964. My parents owned their own camera by this time and, as such, my father believes he took this photograph. Nothing appears on the back of this photograph.

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