saada (maha abu ayyash) - jordan
Land For Sale
Shatana represents a sensitive environment of rural Jordan where a special mix of land use is in effect. Agriculture based on rain fall coexists with semi-nomadic herding in a productive and terrain-conscious relationship. Areas similar to Shatana are rapidly altered from rural productive landscapes to haphazardly built environments with uneven infrastructures. Around our expanding cities belts of pastures, villages and hamlets face an endemic rate of destruction. The alteration occurs through a familiar process, about which all agree: “it is the proven path to excess accumulation of wealth beyond any trade or profession” and “everybody is a land prospector.” It is also free of capital gains and income taxes. The process is facilitated by gray areas of regulation through which it is possible to consolidate land ownership for major land buyers. These first few savvy players are counterparts in a transaction to inhabitants who generally suffer from disenfranchisement, and live in tribal, political and religious segregation. The inhabitants make the least profit. In the process much money changes hands, as the value of the land is shifted from terms of sustenance and productivity to real estate terms. Meanwhile, the land is shuffled down from controlling stakes of hundreds or thousands of dunums to the last buyers in parcels of less than a Dunum. In the process the villagers are forced into towns and cities, losing steady ground for shifting market relations. Concurrently their original homesteads metamorphose from ancestral terrain to palatial holdings to urban sprawl. The gray areas in our system of land use and building regulations are overwhelming the green areas and natural habitats.
How to keep the landscape useful, intact, and spiritually uplifting? My project in Shatana area consisted of putting up 12 small road signs with this advertising message: “Shatana Real Estate Office/lands for sale/088-545-8828.” The duration of the experiment was 48 hours during which I was able to initiate discussions on how to best protect Shatana from the process, while at the same time locally exposing the pressure of the process. My road signs elucidated how facile, real and near the menace.