Fighting with visuals for social justice
‘Our visuals have helped to bring a more informed debate to the public sphere,’ says Joumana al Jabri, who co-founded a compelling new initiative: Visualizing Impact (VI). Joumana al Jabri spoke at WDCD12 as part of Lebanon based architecture collective Febrik. A short interview.
Visualizing Impact is a multidisciplinary collective that employs the powerful tools of visual communication on global social justice issues. VI’s first project, Visualizing Palestine, brings human rights violations occurring in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to global attention through visual media released online. The content of the visuals is originally bi-lingual in English and Arabic but has been translated in more then eight other languages.
How did Visualizing Impact come about?
‘We were driven to launch Visualizing Impact two years after founding Visualizing Palestine as an umbrella organization that would cover regional issues beyond Israel/Palestine and eventually also tackle topics globally. Co-founder Ramzi Jaber was originally struck by the realization that most of the day-to-day human rights violations within Palestine-Israel were unknown even to the many people supposedly concerned with the situation, like Palestinians living abroad. The lack of easy to digest information is what pushed him to want to visually communicate these important issues to both local and international audiences.’
Al Jabri notes that the current media narrative regarding Israel-Palestine does not reflect the facts on the ground as reported by leading organizations such as the UN and Human Rights Watch. Visualizing Impact endeavours to close this information gap.
Your latest campaign is titled ‘Segregated by Colour’. What is it about?
‘The campaign is built on the one universal emotion we all share: love. The Israeli-controlled system of coloured ID-cards is responsible for cruelly separating families from their loved ones. The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law prohibits Palestinian ID-holding spouses of Israeli citizens and East-Jerusalemites from gaining Israeli citizenship or residency. This effectively forces tens of thousands of couples and families to choose to live separated from each other, or to live together without basic residency rights such as the right to study, work, drive or the right to health insurance. The United Nations and many international human rights organizations have condemned the law as racially discriminatory, yet the law has not been lifted, nor has it sparked global outrage. We decided to make these love stories known to the world. The campaign was launched on in February.’
Can people still support the campaign?
‘The law was renewed for the 11th time this year, after having first been issued in 2003. With this in mind, our work on raising awareness and providing tools for organizations working on the ground remains a priority. We invite people to actively engage with our message by spreading the word through sharing our content on social media (Facebook, Twitter), by writing about the issue for mainstream media outlets, or by contributing financially to VP.’
What lessons can we draw from Visualizing Impact?
‘Visualizing data is a tool to make things tangible. The latest example of how data and numbers have been used to further de-humanize a tragedy is in the media coverage of the war in Syria. Numbers are repeated and regurgitated incomprehensibly, increasing the distance between the general public and events on the ground. When numbers don’t mean anything, the sense of urgency is lost. VI’s work is a testimony that the means of communication, as well as the content being communicated, is key. It is possible to arouse emotion in people so long as facts and numbers are communicated in a visually striking and relatable way. Our visuals have helped bring a more informed debate to the public sphere and we hope to extend our impact further through building new partnerships and launching new initiatives.’