RAMALLAH, September 30 (JMCC) - A remarkable show of art by and about Palestinian women is touring the West Bank, reviews the
At An-Najah University in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, where Framed-Unframed shows through Monday, the exhibition begins in the foyer of the fine arts building, where colossal black chiffon dresses hang from a wire strung across the room. The dresses make up Mary Tuma’s “Homes for the Bodiless” (2000), and the vacant female forms they create point to the grief caused by the continued displacement of Palestinians. This theme continues throughout the show.
Equally thematic to the show is the strength of Palestinian women. In An-Najah’s gallery, the show features artwork made in the 1970s, most commonly depicting women as resolute, sturdy symbols of motherhood, nationhood and resistance. Generally made by male artists, the section represents the foundational and ideologically strategic symbolism structured around Palestinian women after 1967.
The female figure in a 1975 image made by Burhan Karkutli demonstrates this blend of militant heroism and cultural bonds to the nation — the woman is dressed in a traditional Palestinian dress (thob) and holds a rifle behind her back. Around her neck is a chain holding the shape of Palestine, on her head is the crescent moon found on the top of minarets. She appears defiantly rooted, physically a part of the land of Palestine, decorated in its symbols.
As the show progresses chronologically, the work is increasingly created by women. The modes of representation become more layered, as in Mona Hatoum’s video piece “Measures of Distance” (1988). Hatoum narrates letters to and from her mother that were sent from Beirut to London; her voice recordings are played over images of Arabic script and images of her mother’s body.
Her mother’s words explain the anger of Mona’s father after he once found them naked, taking photographs of each other in the bathroom. “He was seriously angry. He still nags me about it, as if I had given you something that only belongs to him.”
Extremely personal, the work not only discusses distance and loss, but the relationship of a mother, father and daughter. “Anyway, whatever you do with the pictures, for God sake don’t tell him about it,” the artist narrates.