Come back Safely, Mohamed Badarne


Thousands of workers die every year on the world’s construction sites due to poor work and safety conditions. They fall from unsecured scaffolding, are buried under heavy machinery or building material, or lose their lives in road accidents after too many hours of hard work. And most of them would never have entered the places they built, even if still alive.
The idea for this project came about when a friend of mine died in a work accident. “Come back safely” portrays Palestinian construction workers inside Israel (which I prefer to call historical Palestine). Many of them belong to the 20 percent of the state’s Palestinian citizenry, others have crossed the Green Line from the West Bank clandestinely in search for work. In the so-called Arab sector, working conditions are often harsh, pay is low, and opportunities are limited. Work accidents are hardly ever investigated, and in the rare cases of criminal investigations, no charges are brought. Business continues as usual. It is a very particular contextual reality, and at the same time part of a global experience of exploitation.
The images, however, go beyond the story of oppression of the faceless other. They reveal the pride in what we do to make a living, moments of rest and shared humanity, the feeling of coming home, and mourning our loved ones. They are meant to turn the tables.
“Come back safely” (Tirja’u be-sallama) is a common Arabic expression wishing a safe return. This exhibition is dedicated to all the workers who left their homes and never returned, and to those who still set out every day to build a life of dignity.