EL BEIT: SLIMAN MANSOUR, HAZEM HARB, AND MOHAMMED JOHA
By Maha Alsharif
Installation view: El Beit, Tabari Art Space
© Tabari Artspace
Tabari Artspace in Dubai recently opened the exhibition El Beit, which translates from Arabic to 'feel at home'. The exhibition brings together works by three Palestinian artists from different generations; Sliman Mansour (b. 1947), Hazem Harb (b. 1980), and Mohammed Joha (b. 1978).
In a very Palestinian tradition, the artists welcome us into their home, not for a cup of coffee, but for a visual experience of memories and practices that shape modern Palestinian consciousness and identity. The Palestinian home maintains that despite displacement and the humiliating circumstances of the Israeli occupation, the spirit of their identity is an inherited archetypical image of recollections, objects, traditions, and a strong sense of belonging to a denied history and inaccessible address. The artists use methods and subjects inspired by their homeland to document the roots of their identity, reflect on the current state, and give hope for recognition and a better future.
Detail: Hazem Harb, Tiberias #4, 2017, Archival C-Print, Photography Collage and Plexiglas on Fine Art Paper, 105 x 80 cm. © Hazem Harb.
Hazem Harb, Power Does Not Defeat Memory Jerusalem #1, 2017, Archival C-Print, Photography Collage on Fine Art Paper, 105 x 80 cm. © Hazem Harb.
Multi-discipline contemporary artist Hazem Harb presents a series of collage works inspired by the lake in the city of Tiberias. Composed in the artist's style of carefully layered geometric forms, the collages are made of a mixture of archive images of the lake as well as photographs taken by Harb himself. The images reference existence; and showing them in such manner presents the essence of the Palestinian Identity. Tiberias lake in particular has long been considered a sacred area that holds significance for Palestinians. The city was used as an important centre in Palestine for many decades until the 1936–1939 Arab revolt, which is a central theme in the artist’s works. Harb also produced an installation of an enlarged archive photograph depicting the interior of a home situated at Lake Tiberias, transforming a section of the gallery, into a domestic setting.
Installation view (Left to right): Sliman Mansour, Girl in the Village, 1982, Oil on Canvas, 82 x 71 cm; Sliman Mansour, The Village, 1990, Mud on Wood, 80 x 85 cm. © Tabari Artspace.
Hanging within Harb’s installation, is the oil painting “Girl in the Village” by Sliman Mansour. The artist, whose career spans over 50 years, is among the most distinguished and established artists from Palestine. Having dedicated his artistic career to visualising the Palestinian struggle through history, his subjects speak to the 1948 Nakba, Palestinian folk culture, villagers and farmers, olive groves, and orange trees. His practice ultimately articulates the unwavering faithfulness, dedication and resoluteness of Palestinian societies. In this work from 1982, Mansour depicts a standing young woman wearing a traditional Palestinian dress (the thobe) framed by a dim and unfamiliar abstract agricultural landscape in the background. As the subject is portrayed resiliently standing in her natural environment, the artist is possibly representing the state of the motherland.
“The Village” hangs on the adjacent wall. It is a work from Mansour's Ten Years in Mud series. Here, the process, material, and subject reference the first Intifada, a critical time in recent history during which Mansour co-founded New Visions, an artistic movement of cultural resistance that evaded the use of Israeli art materials and instead used natural locally found materials such as coffee, henna, mud and clay. The artist uses the earth itself to depict the land and its people rather than painting the landscape. The square forms of textured mud are marked with patterns similar to traditional Palestinian embroidery, and the surface of the painting is made to look like the decaying facades of buildings wearing out by time.
Mohammed Joha, Housing #11, 2017, Collage on Paper, 49.7 x 35.5 cm. © Mohammed Joha.
Mohammed Joha exhibits 14 collage works on paper exploring the destruction of Palestinian homes throughout the conflict. Some of the houses featured are fictional and others are drawn from the artist’s memories. Joha considers themes of childhood, loss of innocence, freedom, identity and revolution within this context.
The setting enables a dialogue between Modernist Mansour and young contemporary artists Harb and Joha, where each presents his view on the Palestinian identity within the conflict. Although the connotations seem painful, the exhibition concludes with a positive message to the viewers; in that embracing heritage is a crucial form of resistance as it keeps the Palestinian identity alive and undistorted against the occupation, and it will hopefully force a fair solution.
The exhibition continues until: the 8th of March, 2018 | More details