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The big picture: Petra Bašnáková’s intimate portrait of life among the Palestinian Bedouins

<span>An untitled photograph from Petra Bašnáková’s book Born of Sand and Sun.</span><span>Photograph: Petra Bašnáková</span>
An untitled photograph from Petra Bašnáková’s book Born of Sand and Sun.Photograph: Petra Bašnáková

For three years from October 2019, the Slovakian photographer Petra Bašnáková lived with and documented the lives of Palestinian Bedouins, who for thousands of years have led a semi-nomadic life in the Judean desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. After 1948 and the creation of Israel, much of that territory was incorporated into the West Bank, and the Bedouin were increasingly threatened and marginalised. Today, as Bašnáková writes in the introduction to Born of Sand and Sun, her book of the photographs she took in the desert, despite “military raids, the demolition of dwellings, bans on grazing goats and much more…” the Bedouins have not broken “the strong bond with the heart of their culture in the vast desert”. Reports suggest that raids on Bedouin settlements and dwellings have sharply increased since the 7 October attacks by Hamas launched the war with Israel.

Many of Bašnáková’s photographs, such as this one, reveal the ways in which the Bedouin live in close connection with the precarious landscape around them. The print of the girl’s clothes, like the plumage of the bird, borrows the colours of the desert landscape. Bašnáková describes how her journey into the Bedouins’ world began when she was resting during a walk in the desert and was “awoken from a dream by a boy with a deep look, sitting on a white donkey, followed by two black goats”. The boy led her into the life of his family and his community. One of the subjects of her pictures, Saqer Alkawazba, offers a personal hymn to a life without borders and walls: “From the Bedouin perspective the desert is considered an open space… don’t let my house be burnt down or restrict my animals to narrow ranges… the desert embraces everyone who cannot accept boundaries in their life… I see sand dunes changing their form with the wind, yet the desert remains unchanged.”

• Born of Sand and Sun is published by Dewi Lewis (£35)