2013 marked the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel and the simultaneous destruction of Palestinian civil and political society. The two events are as intimately connected as two sides of a coin, yet each side offers a distinct narrative that remains at odds with the accounts of the other. Feelings of belonging and claims of ownership irrevocably separate, yet permanently connect Arabs and Jews in their struggle for a land that is called Palestine by one group and Israel by the other.  Each of the two cultures wants to hold on to every inch of land claimed by its opponent. The Palestinians strongly feel that they belong to the land, while the Israelis insist that the land belongs to them.

The narrative of displacement and experiences in exile of the modern Palestinians remains relatively unfamiliar to most Westerners and especially to the majority of Americans. By contrast, Israel’s narrative of rebuilding a homeland for the Jews has been deeply imbedded in the Western psyche and continues to dominate the political discourse regarding the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. The documentary films we create at SittingCrow Productions explore the personal narratives and artistic expressions of Palestinians. 

Some of the films that we have completed, as well as others that are currently in progress, present the memories of a small group of men and women selected from an aging and rapidly dying generation of Palestinians who directly experienced the catastrophic ethnic cleansing of their homeland in 1948. They are referred to as the generation of the Nakba (the Arabic term for the Great Catastrophe that began in 1948) and are the men and women who directly experienced the destruction of Palestinian civil and political society as well as the ethnic cleansing of 85% of the Palestinian population from the land that became Israel in 1948. The survivors of that generation are now in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Many still live in refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries, while those who were not expelled in 1948, or managed to return to their homeland, live in Israel as Arab citizens of the Jewish State. Their stories have seldom been recorded, and their experiences and memories of life before, during and since 1948 are rapidly disappearing as that generation ages and dies.

Other films that we are producing at SittingCrow look at Palestinian men and women who use art, poetry and dance as a way to rejuvenate the traditions of a shattered culture and to revive a history that has long been suppressed and denied. Their art bridges the shattered past of Palestinian society with the tragic present of life under occupation and reaches for a desired future of peaceful existence. 

During periods of extended political conflict, art can often be the best way for a society under the stress of cultural annihilation to sustain itself, critique its attackers and project its historical identity to the world. This is very much the case in Palestine today, where art is seen and used as a tool of cultural survival. Driven by a desire to persevere as a historical culture in the face of an extended military occupation, the visual, literary and performing arts are flourishing in complex ways in Palestine. 

The recent and current projects at SittingCrow Productions are a continuation of the focus on displacement, exile and identity construction that have been at the core of my artwork over the past two and a half decades. During the past two years, those topics have been developed and presented in the form of documentary films. Prior to that, these issues were explored and continue to be presented in the form of paintings and drawings. My name is John Halaka, I am a Visual Artist and the founder, creative director and producer of the work that comes out of SittingCrow Productions. I am also a Professor of Visual Arts at the University of San Diego. As an activist artist, my creative work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political concerns. I present personal narratives in my films and create allegorical images in my paintings in order to raise questions, for myself as well as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. Our goal at SittingCrow is to present the viewer with complex and seldom heard narratives that compel her/him to reflect on their relationship to the cultural, political, historical and emotional issues presented.

Our films are designed and intended to be screened at community forums, universities, schools and religious centers, where they can provoke discussion and reflection regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. If you would like to screen one of our films and invite me lead a discussion regarding the past, present and future of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as well as our relationship to that conflict, you can e-mail me at jhalaka@sandiego.edu or call me at 619.260.4107. I welcome your comments and feedback regarding the films and this website. Please feel free to email me with your comments and questions.

Our projects at SittingCrow Productions have been funded through small grants and community contributions. We greatly welcome and need financial support from the community. If you would lilke to contribute to one of our current productions please contact me at jhalaka@sandiego.edu or call me at 619.260.4107.

For additional information about my painting and drawing projects please visit my other web site at www.johnhalaka.com.

Thank you for your interest and your support.

John Halaka
SittingCrow Productions