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The al-Awda Awards Festival - Celebrating culture and demanding return

Palestinian arts and culture continues to be shaped by Palestinian stories of exile and displacement. From the classic works of Mahmoud Darwish and Khassan Kanafani to the many Palestinian grassroots cultural troupes in refugee camps, villages and cites across historic Palestine, the struggle for home remains a constant thread.

Tapping in to this ongoing practice, the al-Awda Awards is an annual competition that calls for entries in a range of cultural categories based around themes of the ongoing Nakba. The al-Awda Awards is organised by BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and has become an annual feature of the national calender. Entry is open to both Palestinians and non-Palestinians around the world in categories including short stories, photography, posters and short films.

An estimated 1500 people from across the West Bank and Jerusalem packed in to the Convention Palace in the Bethlehem village of Al-Khader for the final awards ceremony. Various dignitaries and speakers were invited including national political and religious leaders, and buses brought children and families from many refugee camps. Cultural performances by refugees from Ibdaa Center in Deheisheh camp and Lajee Center in Aida camp kept the audience entertained throughout the evening.

Plaques along with cash prizes to support ongoing cultural work were awarded to the top three places in each category. Award winners who were able to reach the ceremony took to the stage to receive their awards yet for the several award winners from Gaza a separate ceremony was held inside the imprisoned coastal enclave due to the enforced Israeli siege which denies travel along with so many aspects of life.

Full list of the 2015 al-Awda Awards Winners:

  • Best Children's Story:
    • 1st – Muhannad Younis, Gaza, for the story "Search for warmth".
    • 2nd – Khalid Jabbour, Hebron, for the story "Dove on the window", the prize value $ 750.
    • 3rd – Osama Kamal Mohammed Abu Zaid, Egypt, for the story "Reem's dream".
  • Best Poster:
    • 1st – Ahmed Hmeidat, Deheisheh Camp, Bethlehem.
    • 2nd – Ashraf Aghrib, Gaza.
    • 3rd – Abdel Kader Hamed, Ramallah.
  • Best Photograph:
    • 1st – Hiba Qawasmeh, Jerusalem.
    • 2nd – Ahmed Salama, Gaza.
    • 3rd – Abdullah Jadallah, Gaza.
  • Best Short Film:
    • 1st – Not awarded
    • 2nd – Jacob Tawfiq al-Tamimi, Ramallah, for the film "Tarbush sir," the prize value $ 1,000
    • 3rd – Salah and Raneen Shubak, BirZeit, for the film "Bleeding Memories".

Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.

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