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Goethe-Institut Ramallah
A Wooden Cloud Full of Wishes

A manifesto of social sensitivities: The “wooden cloud” reflects the dreams, fears and longings of the urban population of Ramallah
A manifesto of social sensitivities: The “wooden cloud” reflects the dreams, fears and longings of the urban population of Ramallah | Photo: André Mailänder

The sensitivities of a city: The artist Martin Steinert put up his sculpture “wooden cloud” in the West Bank. The Goethe-Institut in Ramallah supported the project. Already, the prevailing wishes of the people can be read in this place.

By Alexandra Föderl-Schmid

From afar, it looks like an oversized bird’s nest rising from the sandy ground in Al Istiqlal Park in the centre of Ramallah, the chief city of the West Bank. Getting closer, you’ll see the filigree structure of the sculpture: this “wooden cloud” with a diameter of about four metres, which winds helically and can be walked through, was made of wooden slats by the German artist Martin Steinert.

Fears, wishes, hopes

About two thousand wooden slats have already been added; about half of them have already been given inscriptions. “We invite people to write down their fears, their wishes, their hopes. This makes it a snapshot of the state of a city,” explains Steinert. He began his series of “wooden cloud” installations in St. John’s Church in his hometown of Saarbrücken in 2015. It was followed by other projects in Saint Petersburg, Berlin, Paris and now Ramallah. Each artwork differs in size and structure. Every work has been documented in photographs by Andre Mailänder, while Mathilde Nodenot of France is working on a film. During the four-week construction period, the city residents were invited to participate in the design of the installation and to write on the wooden slats from which the unique sculpture was created During the four-week construction period, the city residents were invited to participate in the design of the installation and to write on the wooden slats from which the unique sculpture was created | Photo: André Mailänder

Connected by 2,500 wooden slats

Not all of the wooden slats have been added yet. There will be around 2,500 of them, Steinert estimates. After the official opening of the project supported by the Goethe-Institut in Ramallah and the Saarland Ministry of Culture on 30 June, people can continue to record their thoughts on the wooden slats. While Steinert and his team of three take a break in the shade, two teenagers approach and ask for pens. One of them is named Aktham, the other is Waleed. Both wish for “Peace.” For themselves and for their country of Palestine, they explain. They’re from Hebron and are visiting their uncle in Ramallah. They learned about the project from the media and came to the park to participate. Precision work: Artist Martin Steinert arrived with his team from Saarbrücken. Architect Marija Kiefer assisted in the construction of the installation Precision work: Artist Martin Steinert arrived with his team from Saarbrücken. Architect Marija Kiefer assisted in the construction of the installation | Photo: André Mailänder

Wishes are similar around the world

“There were plenty of sceptics so it’s fun to see people join in. Some thank us for bringing an idea like this to their city,” says Steinert. Response has been very positive; due to language barriers some gave a thumbs-up to signal that they like the installation. So far, Steinert notes that his original assumption that wishes are similar around the world has been “largely confirmed.” Peace and health are the most common wishes.
 
Here in Ramallah, we also find political messages. The wish for an end to the Israeli occupation and the demand for a Palestinian state are seen several times. “Ramallah is quite productive for the project idea. We’re very interested in learning what makes people tick here, what their concerns are,” says Steinert. The installation in Ramallah will remain standing for several years, while Steinert moves on with his team and his project. The next “wooden cloud” will be built next year in the form of a boat on an island in the Vltava River within sight of Charles Bridge in Prague. From Saarbrücken via Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg to Ramallah: The idea is to collect the thoughts of people from cities around the world and to get to know their similarities and differences From Saarbrücken via Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg to Ramallah: The idea is to collect the thoughts of people from cities around the world and to get to know their similarities and differences | Photo: André Mailänder

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