A photobook exploring Palestine through skateboarding by Reid Allen
"The West Bank is one of two Palestinian Territories, occupied since 1967 by Israeli forces. More than half of the population of the occupied territories are 21 years old and younger, and the West Bank contains 774,167 registered Palestinian refugees (displaced from their homes what is now the state of Israel over from 1948 onwards), out of a population of 2,345,107*. The Palestinian people living under occupation have every aspect of their life controlled: from movement to water supply to internet access to agriculture and industry.
For the month of September I volunteered with SkatePal, a non-profit organisation that works with communities throughout Palestine to enhance the lives of young people and promote the benefits of skateboarding.
I spent four weeks in the small village of Jayyous in the north of the West Bank, teaching skateboarding to the Jayyousi youth in the afternoons and drinking tea with the elders in the evenings. Weekends were spent travelling around the West Bank, skating what we could and learning more about the history and the present of the Palestinian struggle against occupation.
With skateboarding as an integral but merely foundational lens, this photo book will take you deep into the community of Jayyous; the faces of children determined to both develop and simply have fun at a skatepark just 200 metres from the Israeli Separation wall, to birthdays and wedding parties, and endless stories told over pots of tea. It will then guide you through falafel-fuelled plaza sessions in Ramallah, Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, coffee in Nablus, the be-sieged Arab markets of Hebron and much more.
'Yallah' is a 116 page, 21x21cm paperback book comprising of largely portraiture-orientated photographs all shot on 35mm and medium format film, along with small sections of annotation. It also contains a foreword written by Chilean artist and photographer Sebastian Cobo, who shared my experiences in the West Bank. 50% of the profit from 'Yallah' will go directly back to SkatePal in order to help them keep up the incredible work they do.
Through the photographs presented in this book, I hope to have achieved two things:
Let 'Yallah' be animated proof of the wonders of skateboarding. How it can empower the most marginalised of people, and offer possibilities of self-expression, opportunity and simplicity to the Palestinian youth.
Secondly, I hope to have truly reflected the hardened faces but warm hearts of Palestine. The youth who face such a harsh future yet still have fun in the face of it, and the elders who offer such hospitality and smile through their strife. This book is for them."
*2015 statistics from UNRWA