Disarming Design from Palestine

In the winding streets of Birzeit’s old town, buildings and homes have held silent witness to over a century of generations long since passed. Within this town, located on the outskirts of Ramallah city, Disarming Design from Palestine found their home. In a renovated building, where new stories are lived every day, and where remnants of the past beckons to the future with the promise for a better tomorrow. Disarming Design from Palestine is bringing communities together from Palestine and beyond, to create, resist, and share their stories through design. 

Although based out of Birzeit, Disarming Design from Palestine is registered in the Netherlands and Belgium and co-founded by Annelys De Vet, a ‘Brussels based designer’ who also acts as Artistic Director. However, the Disarming Design from Palestine team is composed of a diverse group of multitalented designers, artisans and producers as well as a dedicated management team, that spans the globe. 

Founded in 2012, Disarming Design from Palestine is a ‘thought-provoking design label presenting useful products from Palestine.’ By turning designs into products that are not only unique, but that tell stories, Disarming Design from Palestine provides a glimpse into the daily life of Palestinians. Despite the many struggles Palestinians face, stories reflecting the perseverance, dignity and strength of the Palestinian spirit shines through in all of the designs and products shared by the creative team behind the label.

Disarming Design from Palestine was created to not only provide an outlet for Palestinian designers, artisans and producers but to enhance their skill sets and ability to reach international markets and share their stories with the world. Executive Director, Raed Hamouri further explains, “Our work is not only aimed at supporting local artisans that need to work, but also to connect them with local and international designers to help them evolve and improve their work, basically to enable artisans to expand and experiment with their pallet of skills.”

Everything starts with a design, Palestinian and international designers will often collaborate to produce iconic pieces of imagery that evoke what it means to be Palestinian in this day and age. Whether reminiscent of the bustling life of Palestinian cities or the vibrancy of the countryside, to the resilience emanating from refugee camps, and from the defiance of a devastating occupation, all crafts shared by the label are a celebration of Palestinian culture and folklore. Disarming Design from Palestine provides an inclusive platform where the multifaceted reality of being a Palestinian can speak for itself. 

Through a collaborative network of support, designers are connected with local manufacturers and artisans to produce everything sold at Disarming Design from Palestine. This includes items produced all over Palestine, as well as in Gaza, regional refugee camps and throughout the diaspora. What sets this socially motivated enterprise apart is their dedication to amplifying the narrative of Palestinians throughout the world. 

Disarming Design from Palestine currently stocks over 60 unique products, all of which can be found on their dedicated online shop. 60 percent of their budget comes from sales, including three separate shares for every product sold. A percentage of which is redistributed for production costs, as well as towards packaging and shipping fees. The remainder is then used for management costs, and most importantly royalty fees for the designers and fair prices for artisans. Disarming Design from Palestine adopts a moral and ethical business strategy, to continue to support emerging Palestinian designers, artisans and producers. 

Disarming Design from Palestine, has made strides within the global community achieving tremendous support and interest. From workshops providing an overview of the various intricacies of designing marketable and authentic Palestinian crafts, to lectures that delve into the stories behind the designs and the importance of creating a network of support between designers and local based artisans. The label also sets up pop-up shops organized all over the world for interested customers, and thematic exhibitions that provides contextual insight into the conditions and stories from which these designs emerge. Disarming Design from Palestine has collaborated with local organizations and institutes which most notably includes, the International Academy of Art Palestine, Al Ma’mal, Birzeit University, as well as internationally with the Sandberg Institute of Amsterdam, WIELS Brussels, and the Design Museum Ghent, just to name a few.  

One of the main issues affecting Palestinian designers is their struggle to engage their designs to a broader audience and develop sustainable ways for an independent artistic practice. In order to address this, Disarming Design from Palestine, is working to establish an alternative design school, and currently offers a series of peer-to-peer education and residency programs, as well as Create-Shops. Create-shops are organized throughout various cities and led by international based residents, to inspire Palestinian designers, artisans and crafters to tap into their surroundings and further refine their crafts. 

According to Raed Hamouri, “There are no contemporary design schools in Palestine. Our academy will be the first of its kind.” He continues, “We already have international based residents coming in and giving specialized classes and workshops. We want to support our Palestinian communities with a design academy that connects our designers and artisans with professionals who have a broad experience.” 

Within the upcoming two years (2019-2021), Disarming Design from Palestine will begin the implementation of mutual projects, such as a temporary Master’s degree  with international as well as regional based design and academic institutions such as the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, Sint Lucas School of Arts Antwerp and Birzeit University. The masters program will dispatch 10 – 15 students with backgrounds in critical thinking and design to affiliated institutions who will then become instructors in Disarming Design from Palestine’s alternative Design Academy. As a result, Disarming Design from Palestine is looking for support amongst the Palestinian diaspora, to not only acquire strategic investments, but to create a network of socially motivated industry partners to support the development and growth of the first alternative design school in Palestine.   

In terms of impact, Disarming Design from Palestine is creating a collaborative platform where people from all over the world can come together and support Palestinian enterprise. They are supporting the economic livelihoods of countless Palestinian designers and artisans to become self-sufficient, reach new markets and achieve invaluable exposure worldwide. What is most notable however, is that a diverse community of Palestinians are able to share their stories and experiences, passions and perseverance, on their own terms, through design.   
 

To learn more, visit http://www.disarmingdesign.com 

Written by
Leila Farraj
- Palestine
Leila Farraj, key expert in Startup and Business Development, works towards achieving MENACatalyst’s overall goal to strengthen collaborations between diaspora investors and local business start... Leila Profile
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