Photo Essays

Transforming a Refugee Camp’s Walls into Subtle Silhouettes

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Pejac, “Kite” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016) (all images courtesy the artist)

The white paint that covers many of the building facades in Al-Hussein, a refugee camp in Amman, Jordan, is chipping and peeling after decades of wear. Established back in 1948, the camp originally provided shelter for the displaced during the Palestinian exodus of the Arab-Israeli war. Today, almost 70 years since its opening, Al-Hussein still functions as one of 10 such camps in Jordan, which is currently home to more than two million Palestinian refugees.

Barcelona-based artist Pejac recently visited Al-Hussein and transformed some of the peeling walls on its streets into subtle silhouetted scenes. Instead of adding color, the artist worked by subtraction: He carefully removed bits of chipping white paint to expose shapes in the dark wall beneath, creating pictures reminiscent of Kara Walker‘s black cut-paper silhouettes.

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Pejac, “Kite” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)

“I had the idea of partially removing the paint of the walls’ skin, almost like a surgeon, to obtain each of the images that I had in mind,” Pejac tells Hyperallergic. “It’s a way of saying that the images where already there, in a latent form but always alive in the memory of each house and family. To find the perfect chipping walls, I walked all over Al-Hussein, studying, touching and testing countless walls to find the perfect chipping walls, talking with the house owners and neighbors, learning their unique stories and enjoying their overwhelming hospitality.” A stairway’s wall now features a silhouette of a boy flying a kite; a fence pictures migrants on horseback; the sides of a home depict bulldozers on a construction site and progressively shrinking maps of Palestine.

The project, completed with support from the Spanish Embassy in Amman, turns the peeling walls’ gray blobs into intentional parts of these landscapes; they become mountains, floors, clouds, and abstract speckled textures. Instead of the bold, in-your-face statements for which many street artists are known, Pejac makes work that camouflages with the existing cityscape. From tiny window drawings to a painting of a world map draining into a sewer, his pieces usually work with a given city’s readymade canvas instead of against it.

”With these four small interventions, I am trying to tell a minimalistic story about the Palestinian refugees in Al Hussein,” Pejac says. “By removing small areas of the ‘skin’ of the houses, I want to transform the paint chipping, produced by the passage of time, into evocative landscapes and transmit the pride of its inhabitants through the walls.”

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Pejac, “Kite” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Migration” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Migration” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Migration” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Palestine” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Palestine” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Throne” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Throne” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Throne” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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Pejac, “Throne” at Al-Hussein Refugee Camp, Amman, Jordan (2016)
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