Salaheddin AbuEin applied for jobs in London, sending hundreds of applications for months, but could not find anything suited to his eight years of banking and wholesale retail experience in Palestine. Being unable to secure employment in the financial industry, he joined Dolce and Gabbana as a sales assistant at Harrods.
“It’s a very high-end, luxury label, but I was shocked to learn that they offer minimum wage,” he says. But no work is wasted, he believes. “I worked there for a little over a month and still learnt a lot. I learnt discipline, how to do my job well, respect for time and appreciation for good products and art.”
His growing appreciation for art and entrepreneurial spirit prompted Salah to quit his job at Harrods and start his own work. “I realised the huge potential for bringing Palestinian handicrafts and art works and showing them in London. There are a lot of sad things one hears about Palestine living here, but rarely do we get to hear about the beautiful side to the country. I just want to show that side.”
So he founded souk سوق, a marketplace for Palestinian handicrafts(word souk literally means marketplace in Arabic), jewellery, arts, music, books etc .
He worked with the owner of Zawyeh Gallery, the only remaining gallery in Ramallah run by Ziad Anani since 2013, and started bringing Palestinian art prints and handicrafts to the UK. He set up an online store, and frequently sells at Chatsworth Road Market in (E5, London) and Backyard Market (E1, London). He is also selling merchandise through the SOAS bookshop and an Egyptian Islamic bookshop (Alef) in Holborn.
The prints he sells are of renowned Palestinian artists such as Sliman Mansour, Nabil Anani, Hosni Radwan and Rana Samaran. All these artists, though unique in their style and technique, have the underlying theme of occupation of Palestine in their works.
And the occupation is something Salah couldn’t avoid in his new venture either. “All the items that have to be brought here from Palestine have to come via Israel, and duty is high. But I want to make this big,” he says.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which formalised the British government’s intent to set up a Jewish state in Palestine, and Salah hopes to mark the occasion with a special exhibition in London displaying the works of Palestinian artists, especially those associated with the contemporary arts movement in Palestine. “I am speaking with several art galleries about the prospect of bringing these works to the UK, and display these here.”