PROBABLY THE BIGGEST KEY IN THE WORLD
When the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and 1967 left their homes, they took their keys with them in the belief that their return was imminent. More than sixty years have passed, and their numbers have multiplied to around five million in Palestine, the Middle East, and beyond. The keys have been passed on from generation to generation as a keepsake—as a memory of their lost homes and as lasting symbols of their desired “right of return”.
In 2008, the residents of the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem collaboratively produced what is said to be the largest key in the world (its makers have even attempted to gain this official title from Guinness World Records). The key, weighing close to one ton and measuring around nine meters in length, was made of steel and installed at the entrance of the camp as critical manifestation of nonviolent expression and a means of overcoming victim portrayals.
The 7th Berlin Biennale entered into dialogue with the Aida Refugee Camp community, arranging to borrow the sculpture and bring it to Berlin for the duration of the Biennale. The key travels thousands of miles across land and sea to Germany, to bring to the foreground the question of the return of the refugees and to critically thematize future perspectives. Workshops with Palestinian youths in Berlin and the Aida Refugee Camp aim at discussing issues of homeland, memory, and contemporary identity in light of the past and present. Accompanying public discussions seek to contribute towards a constructive social development by questioning collective artistic production and narratives. Text by Toleen Touq
Key of Return is a collaborative project of the 7th Berlin Biennale and the International Academy of Art, Palestine in cooperation with Schlesische27, Internationales JugendKunst und Kulturhaus, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. The accompanying workshops are supported by the Goethe-Institut, Ramallah.
This project is co-curated by the residents of the Aida Refugee Camp; Khaled Hourani, Director of International Art Academy Palestine; and Toleen Touq, independent curator, Palestine / Jordan.
The travel of the Key of Return from the Refugee Camp to the Biennale raises questions about the underrepresentation of the Palestinian narrative in the public debates in Germany. Starting from the meaning of May 15 – for one the National Foundation Day and for the other the day of flight and expulsion – the talk seeks to discuss the mediation of the Israeli and Palestinian narrative in the public debate in Germany. The responsibility of the Germans for the Holocaust has contributed to the fact that the Palestinian narrative is not part of the public consciousness. These two different narratives, however, are an integral part of the political identity of both societies and at the same time a legitimacy of a continuation of each victim role. Neither a comparison of the trauma nor an exclusivity of each trauma should be emphasized, but instead the event will follow continuative questions and contribute to knowledge transfer and a better understanding of the conflict.