SHATTERING BIAS: A TRANSFORMED PERSPECTIVE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Displayed as a photo exhibition at Asbury University Student Center from Sept. 2018 - Dec. 2019 [Sponsored by Asbury University's Global Engagement Office]

Artist statement:

During the Spring of 2018, I traveled to Jordan, Israel-Palestine, Morocco, and Egypt. Experiencing daily life and intentionally interacting with locals in these four different countries made me realize how culturally diverse the Middle East actually is and how easily the rest of the world has stereotyped and generalized this region. Many of my own presumptions concerning issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the nature of peace, radical Islam, Arab Christianity, and the concept of culture itself were painfully challenged. Letting go of my prejudices and withholding judgment freed me to embrace and truly understand “the other.” I found out that the Middle East is home to incredibly diverse, artistic, and beautiful cultures—and that a piece of my heart will always be in that part of the world. I was also inspired at every instance I saw barriers and cultural biases being torn down, on both micro and macro levels. I am excited to share my journey with you through my photos.

Ceramics School

Fez, Morocco

Giza Pyramids

Cairo, Egypt

This image accurately shows the Pyramids of Giza, but what’s almost deceiving is what it doesn’t show: the myriad of cars, buildings, people, and Pizza Hut right behind me and my camera. Welcome to modern Egypt.

Weaving for a Living

Cairo, Egypt

 

Zabbaleen, also known as Garbage Village or Trash Town, is home to tens of thousands of Egyptians. Every one of its citizens play his or her part in gathering, transporting, sorting, and recycling trash in an efficient manner. This lady works on weaving a rug for a Christian organization in Garbage Village that helps provide women with jobs.

Pita for Sale

Cairo, Egypt

A common sight in the crowded marketplaces of Cairo, Egypt’s capital.

The Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

I had the rare privilege of going inside the Dome of the Rock, the religious heart of the hotly disputed territory of Jerusalem. Since Trump’s declaration regarding the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, the amount of unrest and the frequency with which IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers are patrolling the West Bank have increased dramatically.

The Wall

Between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

It seems ironic that the rich biblical sites of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, from which people often traveled to and fro throughout history, is now separated by a concrete barrier. Graffiti is often used to express frustrations about this reality in a creative, non-violent manner. This particular one begs the question: What if enemies focus on what they have in common?

He's Coming Again

Golden Gates, Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

Jews, Christians, and Muslims all traditionally believe that the Messiah will return (whether for the first or second time) right here… at the Golden Gates of Jerusalem. Also, it is important to be aware of the fact that the Middle East is home to many indigenous Arab Christians as well as Muslims and Jews.

Berber Woman

Fez, Morocco

The Berbers, or Amazighs, are a people group indigenous to North Africa. Although they are an ethnic minority in multicultural Morocco and most can speak Arabic, Berber culture continues to be retained and celebrated through the Amazigh language, culture, and traditions.

Ourika Valley

Marrakech, Morocco

This breathtaking scene of running waters and snow-capped mountains was not what I initially expected to see in North Africa.

Making Leather

Chouara Tannery, Fez, Morocco

Textile Factory

Fez, Morocco

Iraqi Refugees

Amman, Jordan

Seeing these Iraqi refugee children made Tuesday my favorite day of the week in Amman. I miss the time I spent teaching them English, playing humans vs. zombies, giving them countless piggyback rides, and even trying to keep them from climbing all over me. The joy they have makes it hard to realize they come from war-torn Iraq and that many of them have lost family members to ISIS.

Sleeping under Stars

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Some of my favorite memories are of riding a camel, wandering through the desert on foot, and sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum. Fun fact: movies like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and The Martian (2015) were filmed here.

City Carved in Stone

Petra, Jordan

Petra, the ancient capital of the 1st century BC Nabatean Empire and—of course—the film site of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), is a city literally carved in stone and deserving of its title as a wonder of the world.

Jordanian Hospitality

Irbid, Jordan

In a village in the suburbs of Jordan, I witnessed traditional Jordanian hospitality firsthand at the house of Abou Nidal, a respected leader in the 14,000-member tribe of Bani-Eissa. In the span of three hours, I had stuffed myself with mansaf (Jordan’s national dish of lamb, yogurt, and rice), sung around a campfire, enjoyed several rounds of tea and coffee, and felt absolutely welcomed into a Jordanian household.

Sunset Overlooking Israel

Irbid, Jordan

Breakfast

Wast el Balad, Amman, Jordan

I thought I disliked hummus until I tried hummus in the Middle East! Hashem’s, a popular restaurant situated in the heart of Amman’s downtown, serves a creamy, cold hummus—as well as a variety of other foods and spreads—fresh on a daily basis. Apparently, the king of Jordan himself occasionally dines here, but alas, we did not cross paths.

© 2020 by Eliza Tan