On This Land opened on 19 November at Alserkal Avenue’s Concrete. Born as a triangulated response, the exhibition was spirited to life in just 3 weeks, building on years of research and informed dialogue on Palestine art and culture by The Palestinian Museum and the Barjeel Art Foundation, with the curatorial support of Alserkal Arts Foundation.
The exhibition creates a necessary space for collective re-learning, at a time when the Palestinian Museum’s own doors are closed. Featuring more than 100 artworks, including a selection of the museum’s digital archive, as well as sculpture and paintings by Palestinian artists and by artists representing Palestine from the Barjeel Art Foundation’s collection.
The exhibition’s cover artwork by Sliman Mansour depicts a woman wearing a traditional Palestinian dress standing in front of an olive tree, a symbol of Palestine. A central work on the front facing wall, Ladies of Gaza, by Layan Shawabkeh, was the result of one year of research studying the past and future of the women of Gaza. The artist Jawad Malhi was present on the night, as well as Nahil Bishara’s granddaughter who spoke about Bishara’s artwork The Watermelon Farmer painted in 1956, capturing the hardships of the Palestinian farmers at the time. Contemporary Palestinian artists Taysir Batniji and Mona Hatoum were represented through thought-provoking works on paper and sculpture, respectively.
At 8PM on opening night, Hazem Harb broke his hiatus of more than a decade of working with charcoal on paper, with a live performance, creating an expansive 10m artwork. The return is an attempt to express the artist’s profound sense of loss; the black carbon charcoal echoing the dust that now settles upon his home, Gaza. Depicting eight line-drawn faces, the artwork marked not only a return to the medium, but to the human form, a means to invoke the corporal essence etched in Harb’s mind. The canvas piece will remain on display alongside documentation of the intervention, until 26 November.
The presence of Palestine was palpable around Concrete; the ceiling-high sheets holding the snapshot photography from Palestinian’s digital archive in dialogue with the central cube heavy with art historical significance, paired with the sage fragrance that perfumed the space, and the Rummaniyeh from Hayas Kitchen. The photographs provide a glimpse into the everyday life of Palestinians: three fishermen drinking tea and preparing their fishing nets, a family swimming and fishing in the Gaza port, the first Bedouin festival, children going to the beach in the trunk of
a car, amongst others.
Opening remarks were heard from Vilma Jurkute, Executive Director of Alserkal Initiatives (Alserkal Avenue, Alserkal Arts Foundation, Alserkal Advisory), Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Founder Barjeel Art Foundation, and Amer Al-Shomali, The Palestinian Museum’s Director General, who was absent from the opening, but sent a recorded message.
Tours of the exhibition will take place at 3.30PM every day.
A discussion between writer Rima Fadda, and art researcher Faris Shomali, a former digitisation manager at the Palestinian Museum Digital Archive project, will take place on 26 November at 4PM to 5.30PM.
Press release from Alserkal Arts Foundation