TAKING THE EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE

Inspired by Laila Nimry, (X)odus is a project that supports the rebuilding of lives affected by man-caused displacement. Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi women are given the opportunity to flourish by giving them the means to craft products influenced by their personal stories. Earning the profits collected by (x)odus, everything is handcrafted by these women, showcasing their fine embroidery and tailoring skills.

NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

The image of the nameless refugee loaded with cumbersome bags is a classic reflection witnessed world over.

(x)odus has imbued this vision with practicality. By up-cycling used and empty bags that once contained flour, sugar and rice collected from restaurants around Amman (Jordan), the craftswomen transform them into useful objects to carry one’s personal belongings in. Bags similar in size and material have been used by millions of people worldwide to hold their belongings across borders when fleeing their homes and country due to man-caused displacement.

With an apt etymology for this grassroots initiative taking root, the word “(x)odus” is derived from the term “exodus”: a mass departure of people, especially emigrants. The letter “x” is placed in parenthesis like so “(x)”. This allows the letter “x” to be a variable – a vacant space, available to any and all tragic events leading to man-caused displacement from all around the world. 

THE AGE OF EXILE

The plight of the refugee is close to Leila’s heart as, like thousands of others, her grandmother was also forced to flee her home in Palestine, in 1948 due to the illegal occupation. Leila poignantly recalls snapshots of her childhood bedroom in Palestine ,as mentioned by her granddaughter. These memories have been recreated and can be explored in a virtual reality experience to take Leila back to the bedroom her relative once fled all those years ago. 

Born in Amman to a Jordanian father and a Jordanian-Palestinian mother, Palestine was an integral part of her childhood.

My grandmother was born and raised in Haifa. She married a Jordanian and moved to Jordan in 1975 after having lived in Lebanon, Libya and UK. Growing up and having her as a grandmother was a blessing, as she would always bring warmth and light into a room. She’s still my favorite person to spend time with. Her attitude towards life, after having been through such hardships, is the part of her Palestinian endurance that brought up my mother to be resilient. Having my Palestinian grandmother and mother as figures to look up to as a child made me the person I am today.

Although, she has never been there herself, the way Laila’s grandmother describes the Palestine of her childhood makes it seem like a fantasy that turned into a nightmare.

For this reason, I never felt encouraged to visit and my parents have never pushed for it either for safety reasons. However, it would be amazing to visit the land and witness the place my grandmother once used to call home.

As a recent graduate from Parsons The New School of Design with a BFA degree in Design and Technology, the desire to create (x)odus has been strong from various quarters.

As the granddaughter of a Palestinian refugee, I have grown up hearing snippets of my grandmother’s experiences about leaving her country in 1948 and seeking asylum elsewhere. With the uprising of the Syrian refugee crisis, I was having trouble understanding how my grandmother would have gone through the similar hardships 70 years ago as the Syrian refugees today. During my semester abroad in France, I would take the subway to school. During my commute, I felt helplessness. One day on the road, a Syrian family – mother, father, young boy and an infant – held up a sign saying ‘Syrian Family, please help’, and would wait on the subway platform for any one’s spare change, food or clothing. Parisians would pass the family by as if they were invisible, as if they were not even there.

Laila would do everything she could to help by giving spare change but was certain that nothing she handed them would suffice because this family needed more help than spare coins could provide.

Looking into the mother’s eyes as she accepted my change gratefully and said ‘God bless you’, I felt her vulnerability. Waiting for my train, my frustration about this situation would make me tear up, so I committed to myself that I would do whatever I could to help the people that have experienced such trauma and are doing everything they can to survive when their homes have been stolen and destroyed, like the Syrian family waiting by the platform, and like my grandmother in 1948.

FUTURE SCENARIOS…

Laila hopes to continue taking on different projects utilizing different mediums to assist those who have been displaced in order to facilitate them in creating a brighter future for themselves.

We are also simultaneously using (x)odus as a platform to share their personal stories with the world.

Those interested in buying hand-made bags and learning more about the craftswomen who make them and who have been directly affected by man-caused displacement can do so by connecting to www.xodus.global.