Palestinian children have lived for decades under a difficult and violent occupation, characterised by military offensives, incursions, street demonstrations, arrests, blockades and restriction of movement. Inevitably, protracted conflict situations bring about a host of socio-economic problems including poverty, unemployment, physical and psychological illness, and isolation.
Statistics show that around a quarter of Palestinian children do not go to school. Children who live in refugee camps and border areas often cannot attend school because of violence imposed by the occupation.
One of the consequences of conflict is the erosion of arts and cultural education, as vital resources are channelled towards more urgent needs such as food and healthcare. However, there is no time when art and culture is more necessary, helping to feed creativity and provide solace in inescapable situations. Without a healthy outlet for self-expression, experts say, many growing up in violence eventually turn to violence themselves.
Al Kamandjâti was established in 2002 by Palestinian violinist Ramzi Aburedwan to help Palestinian children build resilience in the face of conflict through music. The organisation believes music encourages children to stay away from violence and helps shield them from its devastating consequences. At the same time, the organisation seeks to fill a cultural gap so often ignored in conflict situations.
Al Kamandjâti has brought music education – mostly perceived as a hobby for the elite – to the most marginalised communities in Palestine. It works with children aged five to 18, teaching them how to play instruments, how to make and repair instruments as well as music theory. The most promising talents are sent abroad to complete their musical studies. It also provides music education in schools where it does not currently feature, in order to increase access to music for the most vulnerable children.
Al Kamandjâti organises around 200 events annually, bringing music to remote locations. It arranges an annual three-week festival, which brings local and international musicians to perform in Palestine. The organisation also identifies teachers and potential trainers as a way to help contribute to the restoration and revival of Arab musical heritage.
Photo: Fadi Arouri