Memoir (2016) is a site specific installation contain copies of a memoir, key, tiles, sound and a letter. 

A fictional account composed of a letter, a memoir and a fake key in Ramallah, tell the story of one Kuwaiti family's displacement from the West Bank after 1967. Playing between Palestinian notions and lesser discussed Kuwaiti history in Palestine, the floor tile pattern in this Palestinian home is raised by create a false, plinth, or elevated platform continuing the original floor pattern. Matching the original floor tiles exactly, they extend from the ground, up and out into the space at the former International Academy of Art Palestine, and former home building of the Palestinian historian Aref Al-Aref, just a few streets from the character, Al Rifae’ original home, which also shares this similar tile pattern. 

According to his memoir, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, the Kuwaiti writer, Ghassan Al Rifae is forced to leave his childhood home in Palestine with his family during the 1967 war. In his memoir he recalls the house, the land and the atmosphere of the area during those summer nights before his exile. Subverting victim roles, the gaze, and the key holder, a falsely constructed pedestal with perfectly matching tiles. Playing with notions of bifurcation, deviation of the line and a politics of subversion, the falsely erected plinth splits the path of narration and truth from the intended geometric pattern in Palestinian tiling, as its own right and heritage to distorting perspectives and disrupt the pattern. Al Rifae's letter states his permission to reprint his memoir displayed with his "original key" to the house and a recording of his singing and reciting sections of the memoir.

Dear Qais,

I may have not thanked you for your curiosity to follow up the story of my house in Ramallah - I really miss it there - yet, I do not understand the reason behind you choosing to look for the owner of this house to rent it for yourself and then find out that the owner was robbed and lost the ownership of his property. I do appreciate your apology and you asking for a permission to rent it, but I am also provoked by this request, since I am not really sure whether you’re doing it out of sarcasm or honesty.

First the idea sounded awkward especially that I don’t really understand the whole topic of what’s called as Contemporary Arts, I don’t quite understand the art of it, I have seen some of the works in several countries and mainly in Kuwait. Although, I wish you best of luck in your graduation project - what would be the artistic side of it? And by the way .. where is this Academy that you’re talking about? Is it the same Teachers’ Academy in Al-Teereh?

I hope you accept my apology for my constant sensitivity to deal with the subject you're working on. But I think you do understand the reason that goes back to the intense relationship between the Kuwaitis and the Palestinians.

You know Qais, the writer is a coward person that uses papers to face his fears of the reality. After I have talked to the Central Phone Office in Ramallah in 67, and me losing Wisal, the house and the memory, I was not able to go back to that moment for two reasons; one is my fear to deforming the nostalgic sense of these memories while dealing with the reality. I kept the memory of this moment untouched - until you came out from the middle of blue nothingness (Facebook I mean) to bring it up again..

The second thing, is the anger that I have in me. May be it's not justified for you as a Palestinian. But for me, the anger towards the right of my, my return to that place and that house. The Palestinians have knocked every door calling for the right of return, ignoring or even not realizing of my own personal cause of my right of return, even if my cause and the Palestinian cause are not similar when it comes to size or (importance) but they are similar in the core and idea.

Honestly, I have discussed the idea with Wissal several times on the messenger few days ago (yes I am still in touch with her, but please do not publish this detail), and she was the one who convinced me to go with your wishes to present my story, especially after she met with you and Lama in Chicago last month, (it seems she liked you both).. So I gave the key of the house to Firas yesterday, here in Kuwait, he is in his way to Amman, I hope you can catch him.. Please do guard this key with your heart.

And ouh, there was no need for you to send me these songs to memorize them, they’re engraved in my mind, but i don’t like the whole idea of recording these songs, I don’t think it’s easy for me to do this.. But remember that you’re always welcome to visit me here.. Maybe we can sing them together.

I apologize for going for too long, but you know writers and their love to written babbling.


Ghassan Al Rifae’

Thanks to Hanan Walid, Mohammad Alowaisi, Majd Assali, May Marei and author Ghassan Al Rifae’.


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