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a watchful eye of creative complexity
Process of Assimilation, 1967–, inkjet printing on newsprint, perfect bound book, 5 x 6.75 inches closed; enlargement of 1960’s photograph, 5 x 7 inches.
The only object my father was able to bring to the United States after his family left Palestine in 1967 was an Arabic-English dictionary. It is not only a remnant of his displacement, but it is representative of a necessity to learn another language, a foreign language, and one that is to become a refugee’s or “displaced person’s” new dialect. My father marked over 1,600 words in this dictionary. These words signify what a person should know when learning English in the late 1960s to early 1970s. These are the words my father found important, the only ones worth knowing in this “pocket” dictionary.
I recreated the dictionary representing my father’s experience during this time of immigration and “assimilation.” I stripped away everything that my father did not mark, everything that was not worth knowing. The dictionary exists in the state after the process of learning English, complete with traces of that process including simple marks, handwritten notes, and the inscription of the Americanized name given to my father by teachers and schoolmates. The photograph is a reference to the unreachable past, his place of origin, the place from which he departed, the reason it was necessary to learn English. A photo of a home to which he cannot return and a book representing the language of his new home, the past and the present recreated to exist simultaneously, as it often does in the reality of a Palestinian.