Originally written for Fest Magazine.
There is something about nationality that makes us distinctly uncomfortable. American Palestinian Jennifer Jajeh has noticed this discomfort more than most, having spent her life trying to set people at ease about a national identity that many refuse to even recognise. One baffling question keeps recurring: “what are you?”
This intimate solo show is an attempt by Jajeh to define just what and who she is, a definition refracted through where she is from. Charting her heritage and returning to her family’s hometown, she is searching for a place in which she makes sense, a search that takes her right to the core of the conflict that characterises how people see her.
Jajeh, a naturally warm and candid performer, communicates this search through sketches, projections and direct address, engaging with humour to make her points. The result is at times messy, and relies a little too heavily on a recurring visual gimmick created by Jajeh to fill the gaps in her scenes, but it is impossible not to become wrapped up in this pursuit of selfhood.
While Jajeh’s experiences in Palestine have made her a deeply political individual, the very personal piece she has crafted is as much about identity and origins as it is about the specific afflictions faced by her nation. Like the piece, her sense of identity is fractured by her dual national identity and the repeated assaults on her roots. In the right conditions, Jajeh is arguing, anybody can snap.