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Kan Yama Kan (Once Upon a Time)

Installation of 5 custom made wood boxes, painted by 5
Palestinian artists,each with a photo story inside.

Watch 'Kan Yama Kan' by Eyes Infinite Films in 2007, as part of the Beyond Blue & Gray film series (English)
Watch documentation of the 2005 exhibition opening at the French Cultural Center in Jerusalem and Interviewby Palestinian TV (Arabic)

The Story of Palestine in an Art Box
I want to create a one to one experience where the viewer is isolated from the surroundings and starts to travel to another dimension. By closing one eye, the round hole in the middle of the boxes used in Kan Yama Kan acts as a tunnel in time – Destination is Palestine. The multidimensional box offers the viewer to look deep into its three dimensional space where photos line up one next to the other. In their collective, they tell the story of a nation and a land.



Photo Story by Steve Sabella  
Rafat As'ad
the day the birds migrated

Rafat As'ad



Hani Zurob. An Artist from Gaza
  Gaza Art Story by Steve Sabella
Hani Zurob
beyond the sea of gaza


Palestinian Art Theater Story  
Inass Hamad. Palestinian Artist from Ramallah
bridal dance
Inass Hamad
For a full version of the film contact Eyes Infinite Films


Monther Jawabreh. Artist from Palestine
  The Story of the Palestinian People
Monther Jawabreh
the evidence


Palestinian Landscape  
Bashar AlHroob. Palestinian artist
the land
Bashar AlHroob

Influenced by John Berger's statement during his visit to Palestine: "As long as there are people who tell the story, the same story, their nation will continue to survive", Sabella presents five Palestinian stories of symbolic and national importance to Palestinians.

Collaborating with five acknowledged Palestinian artists, the project evokes memory, and questions the continuous change of the Palestinian narrative that has influenced the political future of Palestine. Of interest in this installation is how Sabella entices the viewer to experience two dimensional images in a three dimensional space - in a place where fiction (his imagination) and reality (occupied Palestine) interact. Through the viewing hole, people engage with the act of recollection, reflection and remembrance.


The Harrowed Hands of Palestine
By Sarah Irving
Electronic Intifada
November 2, 2015
Electronic Intifada

“Kan Yama Kan,” meanwhile, offers some similar themes — of land, landscape and place — but in a much pacier, more colorful way. Here, the human figures are real, and very alive, whether they are the lined faces of older men and women or the hurtling figures of boys leaping from the walls of Akka, an ancient Palestinian city in present-day Israel.

The title of this set of photographs — comprising five sequences, each with a powerful tale to tell — is the Arabic equivalent of a literary formula such as “once upon a time.” It implies heritage, common understandings and rich stories to be told and shared.


Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
By Hubertus von Amelunxen
Within Sabella’s oeuvre, Kan Yama Kan stands for the transition from a symbolic form of representation, earth-bound and lamenting a lost unity, to the allegorical abstraction of an art that is essentially turned away from representation. The invitation to voyeurism—Marcel Duchamp’s Etant donnés (1946–66) comes to mind—determines the reification of what is seen. “We are more than someone’s object,” Said wrote. Given their strong symbolization, the five boxes painted by the five Palestinian artists epitomize the fetishization of loss. Stories are unreeled like the allegory that unfurls life from death, to use the words of Walter Benjamin.
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