SAN FRANCISCO – Refugee Eye, a gallery devoted to art by refugees, opens March 11 at 849 Valencia Street. The gallery is located in the McSweeney’s building. The first show will feature photography by Jehad al-Saftawi, an asylum-seeker from Gaza.
The gallery is the brainchild of al-Saftawi and his partner, Lara Aburamadan, asylum seekers who arrived in the Bay Area from Gaza City in 2016. Al-Saftawi’s book of photographs, My Gaza: A City in Photographs, was published by McSweeney’s in 2020. In a starred review Kirkus described the book as, “Blistering portraits of a territory plagued by violence... atmospheric, visually moving.” Award-winning novelist Rabih Alameddine said, “This is an outstanding book. These gorgeous photos force us to look, to direct our unflinching gaze at a subject most of us usually ignore. They are both microscopic and universal in scope, beautifully poignant. Gaza is the land of two million prisoners. Jehad al-Saftawi is a wonderful guide into its heart.”
Refugee Eye will feature new shows every six weeks, always focusing on the refugee perspective.
“We believe Refugee Eye's gallery is a crucial forum to better the world's understanding of the modern refugee experience through this San Francisco window,” says Aburamadan.
In addition to the gallery, Refugee Eye will maintain a strong presence online (refugeeeye.org) and in social media. Both Aburamadan and al-Saftawi are noted for their digital expertise. During the bombing of Gaza in 2014, they live-streamed the attacks from their rooftop, providing one of the few live accounts of the devastation.
Refugee Eye, online and in the physical gallery, will feature refugee stories from all over the world, serving as a visual storytelling hub that offers refugees’ content to the public, attempting to create a bridge between worlds in a time of building walls—adding refugee perspectives to the public discourse by offering vivid stories from their exile environments.
“Our hope is to integrate more refugees' perspectives and bring truth to the policy debate,” says al-Saftawi. “Our programs help amplify the voices of individuals suppressed by authoritarian environments. By shedding light on inspiring young artists and the way they are challenging the status quo, we set the stage for the next courageous generation.”
“MY GAZA: A City In Photographs” opens March 11 and runs through May 8. There will be a public artist talk event with al-Saftawi on March 23 from 6 PM - 8 PM. Location: 849 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA. Gallery Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday – 11 AM - 6 PM. Phone: (646) 468-0450.