Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Shehada Shalalda, 24, is the youngest among the very few luthiers in Palestine. He was born in the old centre of Ramallah, next to the shop where he now works.
About a decade ago, when Shalalda was 15, al-Kamandjati music school opened its doors just metres from his house. Having never seen musical instruments or heard live music before, he says he was immediately attracted by the beautiful sounds of the violin and the oud, a traditional Arabic instrument.
In 2008, a luthier came to Ramallah to repair violins in the workshop near his house. Shalalda says he became very interested in the craftsmanship, and tried to make his own violin from a piece of wood. Noticing the young man’s dedication, luthier Paolo Sortigiantoni invited him to his workshop in Florence, where Shalalda made his first two violins. A year later, Shalalda set off for the UK to study to become a luthier.
Today, he works in the same workshop that once sparked his interest in repairing violins, and in addition to the repair work, he also makes three or four new violins each year. He tries to visit Europe each year to buy maple wood for his violins and to spend time with different luthiers to improve his craft.