“A few years ago” - the lady in charge of the prisoner´s book section at the Nablus Municipality Library tells me: “an old man asked me for a specific book” (she picks up and shows me a thick hard covered grey book with old yellowish pages) - “He started to explore the perimeter of the cover with his fingers” - she says - “and search in the bookbinding gap”. When the lady asked him what he was searching for, the man looked at her with a discouraged expression: “in prison I used to hide my embroidering needle in the binding of this book“.
The prisoner’s book section at the Nablus Municipality Library hosts approximately 8000 books read by Palestinian political prisoners between 1972 and 1995, and 870 handwritten notebooks. Nablus Municipality Library: The Prisoner’s Section - Part II, is the second phase of a discursive process that started in 2008. My first visit to the library dates back to August 2008 and since then I have repeatedly visited this treasure, trying to explore the layers of narratives that unfolds from the covers, from the scribbles, from the dust, and from the conversations with Khalil. My artistic practice deals with the periphery so that the real meaning of these books remains at the centre, to be explored with respect and curiosity. “If the book is a novel, the prisoner lives with its heroes and moves amongst them from one place to another, listens to their debates, feels their feelings and emotions, inhabits their homes, and converses with them. The prisoner discovers another world, a different reality. That's how this book freed Khalil Ashour from his prison” (Khalil Ashour,Nablus - prisoner from 1970 to 1982).