Watan is a Palestine-inspired arts shop based in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Officially founded in January 2015, Watan aims to create an additional space for Palestinians to learn about and explore their cultural and intellectual heritage.
When we first created Watan, it grew from a frustration of learning one's history through a foreign lens. To be Palestinian in the U.S., for example, often forces many of us to learn our history in a way that ignores our own participation and agency in our struggle. Watan began primarily as a responsibility: to compel us to reach into the archives and try to dig out some connection to our Palestinian heritage. At the start, this meant creating an online platform to translate what we've learned into a sort of "visual encyclopedia"; creating art pieces is another facet of this effort.
But we have gone past that, in a sense. Watan has since extended the scope of our project and now hope to think in terms of building and collecting resources for our communities. In essence, we want to explore the possibility of building a different type of Palestinian institution, one to complement a growing number of Palestinian initiatives we see happening across the world. In 2016, we were able to open our first studio store-front space, where we hope to hold countless workshops, lectures, and more. Following this, we opened our first experimental Amman office in the spring of 2019 to gauge the need for a space like ours and its reception. To our delight, the response was overwhelming and we consequently moved into our current (and much larger) street-level Amman studio.
We hope that we can cultivate some grounded sense of being away from home and we hope we can actively contribute to our collective liberation. Through that sense of being, we can engender more love, healing, and empathy in our communities and across our struggles. We all need starting points and, hopefully, Watan can be one of yours.