Contemporary Art from within and beyond the border
Kholoud Sudqi Abu Sbeih - Beyond Martyrdom (2015)
While, Banksy – the famous street artist whose identity is shrouded in anonymity – was painting a section of the wall that separates Palestine from Israel in 2005, he was approached by an elderly Palestinian gentleman who said to him: “You paint
the wall, you make it look beautiful”.
Nasrin Abu Baker - A Jerusalem Stone (2015)
Banksy thanked him, but the man answered: “We don’t want it to be beautiful. We hate this wall, go home”.
What Israelis term a ‘defensive security barrier’ and Palestinians call the ‘wall of shame’ – the physical barrier that divides the city from the fields, the meadows from the water, neighbourhoods and families from each other – is the most obvious symbol of the tragedy of a land that is divided (Israel occupies more than 85% of the total area of the historic territory of Palestine), in order to separate Palestinians from Palestinians. To fragment and weaken their historic and cultural identity.
Mary Tuma - After The Last Border (2015)
Although on 29th November 2012 Palestine was recognized by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a non-member observer state (a symbolically important step for the recognition of the existence of a Palestinian state within the ‘two states for two peoples’ solution, promoted by the United Nations), the political, social and economic life of the Territories continues to be very complicated.
Taleb Dweik - Jerusalem Dwells In Me (2015)
After Hamas came to power in 2007, Tel Aviv effectively closed the crossings between the Gaza Strip – a piece of land about 45 kilometres long and between six and thirteen kilometres wide – and the rest of the Palestinian territory, inflicting serious damage on the economy and the closure of many industrial and commercial activities. This has caused the unemployment rate to soar; simultaneously feeding a parallel and illegal economy that passes through underground tunnels between Rafah and the northern Egyptian Sinai.
Fadi Batrice - Chaos (2015)
The West Bank, in turn, has been affected by the construction of the wall that separates it from Israel as a precautionary measure against suicide bombings inside Israeli territory, limiting the movement of goods and Palestinians travelling for work. Thus the refugee problem, which emerged in the camps of Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria following the Arab defeat of 1948, has spiralled and now affects at least five million people according to recent estimates by the UNRWA, the United Nations agency which has been helping the refugees for 65 years, even if many of them no longer live in the camps.
Abdel Nasser Amer - Oranges Saleswoman (2015)
When the writer Edward Sa’id described the plight of the Palestinians, he spoke of a people “exiled by exiles”, referring, with this statement, to a condition of displacement that is not only geographical, but above all historic and relating to identity. Because Palestine is not only a people without a land, but a national identity outside every Nation and consequently, a history outside History.
Ahmad Yaseen - Colorful Land (2015)
Since the first Intifada of 1987, numerous artists from different parts of the world have tried to represent the reality of the situation, to break the stereotypes of Palestinian victims and exiles or extremists, and fully restore the complexity of a land that many and varied interests attempt to erase.
Abed Abdi - A Woman behind the Wall (2016)
Responding to the criticism of Palestinians themselves, American pop artist Ron English recalled in the book Against the Wall by William Parry that “a problem with painting the Wall is that it does tend to make it into a great work of art instead of an aggressive prison Wall. It was our hope that the art would attract more people to see the effects of the Wall on the people of Palestine”. And, returning to the works of Banksy (markets in Bethlehem today sell handbags decorated with his designs), he added that he believed Banksy’s intent was to “bring attention to the Wall by deflecting the spotlight that was following him around – and it most certainly worked – I don’t know if any amount of paint could beautify something so oppressive”.
Tasneem Abu Salah - The Suffering of the Moment (2015)
In the book Buongiorno Palestina (Good Morning Palestine), published in 2014, journalist Fiamma Arditi reconstructs the reality of the Palestinian art world and culture through about twenty interviews with Palestinian artists, writers, musicians and intellectuals. Almost a manifesto that brings them all together in a single expression, a kind of Door of Culture that, as opposed to physical and moral walls, can become a bridge between Palestine and the world.
Ayman Azraq - State of Stateless (2015)
The incident regarding artist and curator Vera Tamari is an exemplary paradox of how art can be important
and, therefore, feared. She created the installation Going for a ride? in Ramallah in 2002, recycling carcasses of cars that had been crushed by Israeli tanks. She cleaned up a group of them and, with the help of some students, arranged them in a line on a tarmac cast that symbolically represented a road going nowhere. Rock music, hip hop, traditional music and songs played from the cars, together with news transmitted by the radio, forming an absurd cacophony of sounds. In response, on 23rd June 2002, the day of the inauguration, Israeli soldiers who were patrolling the town with tanks saw the installation and crushed the cars a second time.
Rana Bishara - Randomness of the Dice... War Crimes and Assassination (2016)
Israeli censorship has gone as far as
prohibiting Palestinian painters from using white, red, green, and black together in their works, simply because these are the colours of the Palestinian flag. Despite
all the difficulties, artists, curators and intellectuals nonetheless continue to run workshops and organize exhibitions and events, such as the Palestine International Festival (music, dance and theatre) and PalFest, the literature festival that has been running since 2008. Because, as Zakaria Zubeidi (founder, with Juliano Mer-Khamis, of the Freedom Theatre, a community theatre in Jenin) pointed out: “education is our most effective weapon”.
Layla Hamdieh - Domes And Doves (2015)
Today, after many ups and downs and the dramatic death of Juliano in 2011, the Freedom Theatre has resumed its activities and regained its spirit. In addition to acting classes, it offers a range of artistic activities – dubbing, filmmaking, creative writing and photography courses, plus initiatives such as the Freedom Bus that takes shows on tour throughout the territory, and psychological support groups for children – that aim to make artistic activity an integral part of the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice and freedom. Art, therefore, interpreted as a social necessity, peaceful and creative resistance, a form of survival, the construction of an identity.
Ali Sheikh Ahmed - Unbreakable Flowers (2015)
This Imago Mundi collection, as the curator Faten Nastas Mitwasi notes, also offers Palestinian artists the opportunity to reflect on their identity, “inviting them to unite under that one nation called ‘Palestine’. What we seemingly cannot materialize on the ground can be achieved through art”. The pages of the catalogue bring together the works of 140 artists “from within and beyond the undefined borders of segregated historic Palestine: those living in the West Bank, in Gaza and the Occupied Territories since 1948, as well as those living in exile – in neighboring Arab countries, Europe, North America, or Asia”.
Monther Jawabreh - Palestine Occupies the World (2015)
It is a courageous and important collection because it shows how the Palestine of art and culture – that blend of belonging that it is the profound freedom of every people for it constitutes identity and memory – is alive and generates energy, creativity and innovation.
It is apparent from the Palestinian artworks that the anguish caused by stolen freedom and dignity does not diminish the power of art to make things more beautiful. Precisely where only fragmentation, poverty and alienation appear to exist, an energy as alive as the aromas of spices and cooking, the silver of the olive trees, the shady and satisfied silence of the baking heat mitigated by a mint tea in the summer, survives.
Maymona Abu Arra - As If Your Hand Is A Country (2015)
It is a land, that of the imagination, that cannot be invaded. Here, as in the final verses of To My Mother by the poet Mahmoud Darwish (born in Al-Birwa, a village in Upper Galilee that disappeared from the map in 1948), as darkness falls, the Palestinians can finally return home:
I am old Give me back the stars of childhood
That I may chart the homeward quest
Back with the migrant birds,
Back to your awaiting nest.
Art Direction, Photography and Production
Faten Nastas Mitwasi
Faten Nastas Mitwasi
Aissa H. Deebi
Editing and Translation
Demetrio De Stefano
Vladimir Tamari - Seen/Unseen