Sunday, October 30, 2011

Palestine in the World of Culture...This Week in Palestine
Palestine in the World of Culture
By Jack Persekian, with contributions from the organizations listed below
The following article tries to summarise some of Palestine’s impacts on the international art community. It is a tricky issue to tackle, as art itself is not bound by national borders.

I sometimes wonder when it would be appropriate to flaunt the global exposure and recognition of Palestinian artists to family, friends, and neighbours, especially when life here in Palestine is so unforgiving and the struggle to get around and make ends meet is so consuming and burdensome. I feel embarrassed and humbled.

Nevertheless, I see it as more of a duty; or maybe I try to convince myself of the fact that projecting a positive image of Palestine into the world will help change public opinion, and eventually (Inshallah) influence governments and decision-makers to side with what’s just and fair.

Doubtless, the recognition and, consequently, the involvement of so many Palestinian artists in events all over the world nowadays has been achieved by their resolve to present the best that that they could, shying away from notions of solidarity and symbolic gestures of goodwill.

From early on (the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s), Palestinian involvement in the international art arena was a direct result of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO’s) engagement with solidarity campaigns, affiliate political parties, and friendly countries. Where we are today is the result of the Palestinian art movement’s tireless quest for terms of engagement on a professional basis founded on merit rather than on camaraderie, political alliance, or empathy.

Someone of stature in the Palestinian art movement once told me that he was hoping the day would come when his name would be coupled with the word “artist” and not “Palestinian artist.” This is not to say that he didn’t want to be a Palestinian artist! On the contrary, I think he was alluding to the hope that his work would become universal and that the values it carries could relate to and connect with other nations and causes around the world.

In a way, it was an attempt on his part to mentally break out of the state of siege and isolation we’re continuously under in Palestine-the siege that is imposed upon us by the Israeli Occupation on one hand, and that is self-imposed as a mechanism to protect our fragile existence and identity on the other.

When asked in an interview with the BBC Radio about the political connotations of her work and of what she thought of Edward Said’s statement that she “had expressed, more than anybody else, the Palestinian condition,” Mona Hatoum answered that “meanings are never fixed” in her work, and that they are rather “slippery.”

She considers meaning as multiple and therefore it cannot be restricted or restrictive. She told the BBC, “people interpret these works depending on their own experience, so his (Edward Said’s) experience of exile and displacement is that of the Palestinians, so he read specifically the Palestinian issue in my work. But it’s not so specifically about the Palestinian issue. It could be related to a number of people who are exiled, who are displaced, or those who suffer cultural or political oppression of any kind.”

Mrs. Hatoum has deservedly earned the status of an international artist for her ability to liberate herself from the parochial confines of our conflict and commit “to human values of concern to all cultures and societies.”

Our cause carries a lot of weight worldwide and stands to embody the quest of any nation or people on this earth for liberation, the right of self-determination, and statehood. I believe that the art we make should live up to this mission, not in its literal representation of the plight and suffering of our people, but in what and how we can contribute towards upholding human values and the future of mankind.

The following brief sections highlight how a number of Palestinian organisations are working to bring their artistic messages and talents to the world community, and share what they have to offer back here in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Al-Harah Theatre Since its establishment in 2005, Al-Harah Theatre has produced several plays for children and adults, which have toured locally and internationally. As a Palestinian theatre group, we believe that it is very important for us to reach international audiences by connecting with artistic and cultural organisations throughout the world. Our performances have taken place in different Arab and international theatre festivals in locations such as Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Japan, Romania, and the United Kingdom.
In 2007, Al-Harah Theatre received the first annual Theatre Against War (THAW) Scholarship Award in recognition for its work with children and young people in Palestine....READ MORE ABOUT
Al-Harah Theatre
Al-Kamandjâti Association
Al Ma’mal’s The Jerusalem Show
ArtSchool Palestine
Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM)
Palestinian Art Court-Al Hoash
Shashat Participation in International Events
A Sister and her Brother Omaima Hamouri and Michael Krotkiewski
Girls and the Sea Taghreed El-Azza.
Born and living in Jerusalem. curator and producer, Jack Persekian, is the founder and director of Anadiel gallery and the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem. He was the head curator of the Sharjah Biennial from 2004 to 2007, the artistic director of the Sharjah Biennial from 2007 to 2011, and the director of the Sharjah Art Foundation from 2009 to 2011.

Palestine Youth Orchestra in Greece, 2010. Photo courtesy of ESNMC.

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