Beneath the visible national territory of Jaffa lies the contested territory of Al-Manshiyya. Once-situated in the North of Jaffa, Al-Manshiyya was a Palestinian neighborhood that faced a perpetual mass destruction under a brutal colonial occupation, between 1948 and the present day. Its vacant expanse was subsequently converted into Zionist commercial real estate.
To problematise the extinction of Al-Manshiyya’s Arab urbanity, ‘The Image as an Archive’ was founded as an architectural practice that attempts to digitally reconstruct the most relevant components of this now-absent neighbourhood. In opposition to the discursive erasures of Al-Manshiyya’s infrastructure, land, and culture, this project understands the ‘archive’ as a decolonising initiative that renders visible what has been purposely made invisible under the Zionist occupation. To achieve these reconstructions, I referred to an extensive range of scarce photographs and personal testimonies that were collected from interviews and schematic drawings.
Grounded in street level interactions, the following virtual journey not only introduces typical Arabo-Islamic design features like window grills and traditional shopfronts, but also domestic furniture that was characteristic of Arab Palestine before the 1948 Nakba. It charts an alternative territory, by framing the most up-close and personal moments of a once-thriving Palestinian neighbourhood. In doing so, The Image as an Archive aims to address Al-Manshiyya’s destruction from the regional to the material scale, by enabling its audience to experience the neighbourhood’s vernacular past through contemporary modes of visualisation.
This project is committed to promoting a public multicultural discussion with which to document and raise awareness to the untold Palestinian narratives that remain largely understudied in mainstream academia. In these digital reconstructions, a persistent and unforgettable trace of a seemingly untraceable neighbourhood is carefully materialised through architectural tools.
About the Artist
Born in Jordan and raised in the United Arab Emirates, Zain Al-Sharaf Wahbeh is a London-based Palestinian researcher, designer, and postgraduate Architecture student at the Royal College of Art. She obtained her Part I qualification in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh in 2019.
As a Part II Architecture student at Royal College of Art, Zain Al-Sharaf has actively confronted the dissolution of the Palestinian vernacular under the Zionist occupation, through multidisciplinary archival practices. To problematise the extinction of Jaffa’s Arab urbanity, she conducts speculative reconstructions of its urban-communal-memories using digital modelling and rendering software. Her forensic and journalistic endeavours have since been invested in promoting social justice, biopolitical inclusivity, and cultural restoration.