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Jerusalem Bereaved Womens Group

When a women tells you her son was burnt to death
When a women tells you her 13 year old son was incarcerated
When a women tells you her daughter was shot by sniper-fire
When a women tells you her house was burnt down and her husband imprisoned
When a women tells you.......

You have only one option - and that is to find a way to tell the World what you heard. 

An artistic collaboration with the bereaved to bereaved program in Palestine in partnership with the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, the Women’s Studies Centre and the Women’s Affairs Centre.

Rachel Gadsden began her artistic collaboration with the bereaved to bereaved (BTB) programme in Palestine in 2015, working in partnership with the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation (KTK), the Women’s Studies Centre (WSC) and the Women’s Affairs Centre (WAC). The objective of this artistic association was to develop and facilitate creative empowerment so that each bereaved group-member would be given the opportunity to find an artistic voice, and in this way share personal narratives, as part of the healing process and as a means of communication, to be heard by audiences both in their own communities and internationally.          

The BTB rights-based healing and empowerment programme has been working with women traumatized by losses experienced as a result of the conflict in the Palestinian territories, and has been undertaken by WSC in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 2002 and WAC in partnership with the WSC in Gaza since 2015, with the support of KTK. The bereaved group in East Jerusalem include women living in Zone C – as classified by the Israeli authorities – and was brought together specifically for women who have experienced very significant loss, including death or injury of a family member: husband, child, father, mother, sister, brother, friend; damage or destruction of house or home; loss of livelihood and/or physical ability. They are women who are unable to feel a sense of security not only in their own communities but in their own homes, and who are additionally disadvantaged in the labour market. Losses of husband, father, son, have resulted in many women being forced to take on the non-traditional role of ‘breadwinner’ in what may be regarded as a patriarchal culture. The project assists the women in developing the strengths to come to terms with these difficulties.

Gadsden’s art exemplifies the importance of the right to freedom of expression with the intention of contributing to cultural change. More recently, she has broadened her focus: from the individual to the community; and she is developing projects which take a psychogeopgraphical approach, and which consider specifically the physical and emotional disablement brought about by conflict and oppression. (Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.")

This precious cross-cultural collaboration between Gadsden and BTB program has at its heart the intention of creating profound expressionistic artworks that both contribute to and challenge the existing dominant narratives on the pathway through violence to peace.

Thus far,  within the project, each of the participants has produced exciting multi-media art and drawings, and a ‘collective’ body-map. Difficult personal testimonies prompted powerful expressive narrative art. Gadsden has created a series of artworks that respond to the political context and that consider the personal narratives, profound stories rarely heard by a wider audience. It is undoubtedly disturbing to listen to a woman speak of her teenage child having been shot by sniper-fire, or of her house having been bulldozed; but the process of creating art out of these harrowing stories not only assists the healing-process, but also imbues a strength. The opportunity to be heard can counteract the sense of abandonment.