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Tanya Habjouqa is one of the eight featured artists in a special collaborative series commissioned by the renowned publication National Geographic in partnership with artist collective, For Freedoms. The collection of documentary works is titled, “The Past is Present,” and draws its inspiration from American History.

“Recognizing the power of art to challenge and change us, National Geographic partnered with For Freedoms on a collaboration to help artists document the resilience of communities across the nation – unveiling documents stories about America’s past and strengthening our understanding of the present.”

The artistic collective For Freedoms employs art in various public projects to deepen and expand society’s capacity to interrogate what is and imagine what could be.

For this project Habjouqa returned Fort Worth, Texas, where her mother brought her and her brother at the age of four after her parent’s divorce.  Habjouqa spent her childhood in Texas until 2002 before returning to the Middle East to live and work as a photojournalist in Jordan and Palestine for the next 20 years.  For Freedoms invited her back to her childhood home to see if  she could recognise the Texas of her youth.

Creating this work opened up a surprising personal dialogue for Habjouqa. She spent two months in Fort Worth, reconnecting with the area, reaching out to past acquaintances and friends, and meeting new people. The resulting feature story in National Geographic has sparked her interest to continue building on this body of work, examining her past and connecting with current the political and social landscape of Texas.

When speaking about her childhood Habjouqa says:

“I often felt like an awkward extra even then. I really did not know what I would feel about returning—or refocusing my journalistic lens from the Middle East to Texas. What I did not expect was that the very approach I finessed while photographing people coping with trauma in the Middle East would prove useful in Texas—a traumatized kid is a traumatized kid.”

Read the entire feature in National Geographic, and visit The Past Is Present webpage to view more of these incredible stories.

See more of Tanya’s photography on her webpage.

Follow her on Instagram at: @habjouqa

See more of her available works on the East Wing Artsy Page.

Tanya Habjouqa is represented by East Wing.

Text for the National Geographic article was written by Amy McKeever.