Ayed Arafah: Artist and Educator

July 03, 2015 Vivien Sansour, IMEU
Ayed Arafah: Artist and Educator
PHOTO: Vivien Sansour

Born to work with his hands, visual artist and educator Ayed Arafah connected to his gift at a very young age when his schoolteacher collected his class drawings and displayed them in the schoolyard. Ayed likes working with different mediums — from videos to installation pieces to paintings and murals. Born in Jerusalem, Ayed grew up in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem where he had his first experience experimenting with colors as he was drawing landscape murals on different walls in the camp. The process of creating these vibrant murals became in itself a duo piece of both visual and performance art as residents of the camp became avid audiences of the painting process when the images were being formed.

A graduate of social work from Al Quds University, Ayed went on to study at the International Art Academy in Palestine where he gained his B.A. in Contemporary Visual Arts. In the last few years, Ayed participated in several exhibits both locally and internationally. He was a winner of the “Christ in the Palestinian Context’” contest for his interpretive version of Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” where he depicted Mary as a Palestinian woman carrying her son, the martyr, represented by Jesus.

A recipient of the A.M Qattan Foundation Young Artist Award for his work “Bog-Jet Bahar” or “Sea Package,” Ayed participated with his piece “Horizon” in the Mosaic Rooms Gallery in London in 2010. Since then, Ayed’s work has been showcased in several venues across Europe and the Middle East, including Oslo’s Khio University, Hydrarcy in Cairo, Art Wave Ramallah, Brighton University, and “Truth is Concrete” program in Graz, Austria. As an artist in residence at Cittadellarte in Biella, Italy, Ayed’s work focused on the social dimension of art represented in an interactive piece, “Baskets Ball,” which is a giant ball made from colorful wastebaskets that he rolled around the small town of Biella, making it a tool for social connection and interaction.

While his work is varied, there is a unifying underlying theme of almost everything he does; breaking old patterns and challenging what he calls “the givens” or what people are taught are fated realities because he believes they limit the human experience. Ayed says, “I want my work to play the role of the disturber of the givens in order to destroy traditional narratives that constrain our human potential.”

A man of few words, Ayed is not interested in intellectual discourse as much as he is moved by the neverending pleasures of experiential learning. In that vein, he dreams of one day owning his own house in the hills of Palestine where he makes art while raising animals and farming with the woman he loves. Because, according to him, art’s power is not in the theory — “it is in the doing”.