In occasion of the Marrakech Biennale 6 (February 24–May 8, 2016) Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti have presented  “The Book of Exile” an assemblage of stories of refugee life in Palestinian Camps since the Nakba in 1948. These stories are an expression of a vital culture that emerged in exile in spite of suffering and deprivation. The book narrates the story of the camp as a distinctive site of knowledge production, a source of social and political inventions and spatial configurations away from the stereotypes that have long described the camp as a site only of poverty and repression.

In order to engage actively with this camp condition, in 2012 Hilal and Petti have established Campus in Camps a gathering place for communal learning and production of knowledge grounded in refugee communities. Among the authors of the texts contained in this book are Campus in Camps participants living in Dheisheh, Arroub, Ayda, Beit Jebrin, Fawwar refugee camps in occupied Palestine. The stories of exile derive from everyday experience, observations, reflections and interaction within the refugee community. Campus in Camps has therefore become a space where young refugees congregate to discuss and write their culture and share it with each other, with the rest of the people in the camp, other refugees, and the whole world.

With this spirit this manuscript of The Book of Exile has been scribed by the calligrapher Abdelghani Ouida from the city of Marrakesh in Morocco. The Koutoubia Mosque took its name from large numbers of calligraphers who have taken the yard of as headquarters for their work. The Koutoubia played an important role throughout history in producing books, handwriting and publishing, translating and distributing texts to all parts of the Arab and entire world.

By transcribing the manuscript of The Book of Exile today in Marrakesh, the calligrapher Abdelghani together with his colleagues and his students brings back an inveterate heritage in the production of knowledge and its scribing and distribution. Beyond that, they also revive the history of the Koutoubia Mosque and its courtyard as a place of gathering and knowledge production. The Book of Exile asserts the refusal of refugees to be not only victims of stereotypes but to claim their right to make history.

Marrakech Biennale booklet (PDF)





Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal - Performance at the Koutoubia Cisternes - © Saad Alami (3)-reduced


Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal - Performance at the Koutoubia Cisternes - © Saad Alami (1)-reduced


Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal - Installation view at Jardin de la Menara ©Saad Alami (1)_reduced