Palexpo: The Palestine Exhibition in London

Last weekend, my sisters Everyphototunity, HappyMuslimMama, my niece and I went to the Palestine Expo 2017, a huge event organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, in order to raise awareness about the issues which are happening in Palestine today.

The timing of the event was not coincidental. This year marks a series of devastating anniversaries for Palestinians: a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years of Israeli occupation and 10 years of the Israeli government’s blockade on Gaza.

–  Mondoweiss

This is a topic we are all quite passionate about, as there is so much conflict, struggle and hardship for the citizens of this country, which is still prevalent today. As Muslims ourselves, it is hard to hear about the human rights which are being oppressed in this country, and the fact that this is continually being ignored – by the media, the Western governments and the rule-makers of their own country.

The Palestine Expo was a range of seminars and talks, exhibitions, film showings, workshops and interactive areas for people to walk around, to listen to speakers and get to know more about the country’s rich heritage and history.

Everywhere we went, there were strong messages about what is happening today in Palestine as well as Israel, and what we can also do to raise awareness, help the organisations who are friends of Palestine, and also support ethical companies.

We managed to sit and listen to a few lectures which were pretty emotional, informative, inspiring and moving. Firstly was Dr Inas Abbad, a Palestinian activist, teacher and researcher who spoke about her home, about how their identity was slowly being erased, with their roads, streets towns and even names being changed, and the continuous censoring, lack of education and danger that follows school children as they go to school every day. Secondly was Ronnie Barkan, an Israeli human rights activist and conscientious objector, who spoke about his support for the struggle. I found it really interesting that he pointed out the various things the Israeli government has done to hide their actions, such as mis-labelling passports in English and in Hebrew. Thirdly was Soheir Asad, a Palestinian activist and Human Rights lawyer who spoke about the legal routes that the Israeli government had taken, land laws which were used to take land from Palestinians and the way this was used against them in courts. Lastly was journalist Yvonne Ridley, who is also a political activist, who spoke about the injustices she had seen, about the images which have stayed with her since she was a child and the disillusionment she felt when she realised the lies and distortion of the media.

We also managed to catch an amazing talk by journalist John Pilger (which ended in a standing ovation), in which he talked about his experiences in Palestine, and the ways he had been blocked in reporting the truth – but also the ways people’s mentality was changing so that they were unwilling to stay silent in face of injustice.

There were several places for us to leave our messages of hope throughout the expo – a giant wall of messages, pinned postcards, and even a tree to hang our words. It was pretty inspiring to see such positive words, beautiful messages to support our fellow Muslims and humans from across the country.

We also managed to try some Palestinian cuisine during the lunch rush, and tried some seasoned chicken wraps from Tabun Kitchen, which was pretty tasty (although cold!)

There was plenty of opportunity to walk around and explore, and we saw lots of beautiful pieces of art, as well as some story-telling shows and some documentaries about Palestine which were on show. I love that there was so much to see and do, and that there are a lot of similarities to Pakistan and my family’s village, which has a focus on story-telling, culture and a peaceful Islamic way of life.

It was a pretty informative day for all of us, there were a lot of things which made a lot more sense to me by the end of the day, and it was amazing to see so much support from Muslims and non-Muslims at the show. There was a protest briefly outside the venue from anti-Palestine protesters, but this didn’t discourage anyone from attending the event, and I liked that there were no shows of arguments or clashes as a result – people just left the protesters to it, and they slowly dispersed.

I would highly recommend to everyone that they do their most to find about this issue – even though we don’t live in Palestine, it is an issue which affects all of us. It isn’t enough just to know that this is happening, but to understand why, what we can do to help, and how to  make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Giant Books & Giant Shoeboxes

I love seeing quirky installations around London, especially when it’s giant out-of-proportion things – so you can imagine how much I loved seeing these huge pieces in North Greenwich outside the O2 Venue, by the Empathy Museum. Even better, these were to raise awareness for great causes – in this case to get people to be empathetic and see the world from someone else’s perspective.

There were two installations in place – a huge series of books disguising a walk-in library and a huge shoe-box where you could go in to try on shoes. My favourite was the books lined up below (and it was fun to spot which titles I’ve read!) which looked huge in the empty square, but also beautifully colourful. There’s a door hidden on the side to walk into the room inside, where you can read and browse the books inside, or simply donate books.

I’ve always had a soft spots for book places like these – as someone who devoured books as a child, my sisters and I were constantly in and out of libraries borrowing books that we couldn’t read fast enough (and if we had bought all the books we’ve ever read we’d probably fill several book shops!) I love that there’s a place like this for people who can walk by and pick up a book, especially if it’s something left by a reader who has loved the book and left it for someone else to enjoy.

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The second giant installation was this shoe box below, which was another room for people to come in and try to walk in someone else’s shoes – something to help change your perspective, read stories about people from all over the world and their professions and background. I didn’t get a chance to try anything on because the shoebox was closed when I turned, but I loved that this gives people a chance to explore different backgrounds.

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I’ll be keeping an eye out for more things like this around London – one of the things I love about living in this city is the amount of changing artwork, advertising and opportunities to try something new. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more things like this over the summer, and it’s given me more incentive to explore more parts of London (and take my camera with me too!)

#CHECKTHELABEL

“There’s a Palestine that dwells inside all of us, a Palestine that needs to be rescued: a free Palestine where all people regardless of color, religion, or race coexist; a Palestine where the meaning of the word “occupation” is only restricted to what the dictionary says rather than those plenty of meanings and connotations of death, destruction, pain, suffering, deprivation, isolation and restrictions that the country has become injected with.”
― Refaat Alareer, Gaza Writes Back

Every year, Israel exports millions of pounds worth of dates to the world, which many people unknowingly buy and use to break their fasts. These dates are often grown in illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley, on land that has been stolen from Palestinians. By buying these dates, we are helping Israel to continue it’s illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. With your hard work, dedication and support the #CheckTheLabel campaign has grown significantly over the last 8 years.  The campaign has gone to the heart of the communities in cities and towns across the UK to ensure no one buys these dates.

When buying dates for Ramadan this year, please check the label and make sure they have come from free settlements and are part of a fair trade community. One of the biggest reasons we fast is to recognise and understand the suffering which unfortunate people undergo, and these fasts could be undermined if they are opened with food which becomes a symbol of oppression.

For more information, please visit this site.

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Pretty Mosaic Giraffes

I saw this recently and loved it, a mosaic rainbow pair of giraffes created by local charity Headway East London, by survivers of brain injury, using art as a means of expression and communication, as well as helping the survivers in their rehabilitation. I though this was a beautiful, gentle piece of art which used pretty rainbow colours and mirrors to create something which looked pretty joyful – a family of giraffes which is simple yet very endearing : )st

A Floral Print Rickshaw in London

I saw this recently while wandering around in London, and was ecstatic to find this floral-printed rickshaw (especially as I had heard about these and was keeping an eye out for these). There’s several customised by various well-known designers carefully placed in spots around London (or have been, for the last two months, I’m not sure they’re still there!)

The rickshaws were designers and put forward by the Travels to My Elephant campaign, which works to save and preserve elephants, their habitats and generate awareness. You may remember the Faberge Eggs display a few years ago by the same organisation, this year they opted for lots of colourful elephant statues placed all over London, as well as these rickshaws.

Naturally after taking some pictures I took the chance to sit inside and make my husband pretend to drive the rickshaw like an old Indian Noir film (he refused to pretend to drive or pose, so I just did it by myself).

Did you see any of these around London?

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ZSL’s Roar With Laughter – Sumatran Tigers and comedy

I was lucky enough to get tickets to charity ZSL’s evening of comedy, ‘Roar with Laughter‘ event over the weekend in benefit of Sumatran tiger awareness, which featured a range of stand up comedians, and well, a few (fluffy) tigers.

It was an interesting evening to say the least, Phil Jupitus reading poems about Jeremy Clarkson and his odd relationships with cars, Ed Byne on why cats are evil, and Lucy Porter on joys of Argos reviews. But we did laugh, and I did like the tiger masks on every seat : )

The Eden Project

The Eden Project is really worth a visit, it has beautiful abstract pieces and natural plants on display, and it is easy to see where the money for donations and ticket prices go towards. The Eden project is constantly trying to find ground-breaking discoveries to help the planet, but it really s worth a visit.

Or as one of my (male) friends summed up, “You’ll like it if you’re basically either a girl or a botanist.” Nice.