At the opening of the exhibit in Houston, Texas, a woman dances in front of John Halaka’s “Stripped of Their Identity and Driven From Their Land”, from the series “Forgotten Survivors”, 1993/1997/2003. Media: Rubber stamped ink and acrylic on canvas, 87” x 272”. (Photo: Michael Stravato)

February 20th, 2006Made in Palestine is the first museum-quality exhibition devoted to the contemporary art of Palestine to be held in the United States. It is a survey of work spanning three generations of Palestinian artists who live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, parts of Israel, Syria, Jordan, and the United States.

“A rare opportunity to view contemporary art from Palestine… a longer look at daily life in Palestine than our edited nightly news snapshots ever reveal…. The quality is exceptional. What these artists add to our minds’ images of destruction and despair from this troubled region is an underlying sense of consciousness,strength and hope, both in themselves and their people.” – ArtvsHouston Gallery Review

Ashraf Fawakhry’s “I am Donkey/Made in Palestine”, 1998-ongoing. Media: Ink and mixed media on series of 47 wood blocks. 2 3/8” x 2 3/8” x 1” each. (Photo: Michael Stravato)

The exhibition was curated by James Harithas during a month long stay in the Middle East, aided in his mission by Palestinian artist Samia Halaby. Made in Palestine premiered at The Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, Texas and in 2005 traveled to San Francisco, CA, and Montpelier, VT.

Nida Sinnokrot’s “Rubber-Coated Rocks”, 2002. Media: Rocks and rubber. (Photo: Michael Stravato)

“Another vision of Palestine and its people… Through a mix of painting, photography, sculpture, textiles, and video, the artists sow tales of love and loss. They speak of struggle and success. But probably most importantly, they offer hope for the future.” – The Christian Science Monitor

The artists have been gaining recognition in both regional and international arenas. They utilize a multiplicity of techniques, mediums, and aesthetic styles such as realism, abstraction, and conceptual art. They have been influenced by ancient and contemporary art of the Near East and Egypt as well as by such Western approaches to art as Arte Povera and Installation Art. The works range from monumental pieces that impact the visitor upon immediate entry to the gallery, to pieces of a more intimate nature that invite close attention.

Mary Tuma’s “Homes for the Disembodied”, 2000. Media: 50 continuous yards of silk. Installation 12’x24’. (Photo: Michael Stravato)

Linking ancient and modern myth, Mustafa Al Hallaj uses fantastic and folkloric imagery in his 296-foot-long print, Self Portrait as God, the Devil and Man. Emily Jacir’s video installation Crossing Surda is a document of Jacir’s experiences, some banal, some harrowing, of crossing the militarized Surda checkpoint that separates Ramallah, where she lives, from Birzeit University, where she teaches. In I, Ishmael, Suleiman Mansour creates clay “emblems of decay” that are “dry, cracked and distorted, reminding us of dispersion, waste, pain and death.”

From Abdel Rahmen Al Muzayen’s series “Jenin”, 2002. Media: Ink on paper, 25”x19.5”. (Photo: Michael Stravato)

Palestinian artists, like their peers in Europe and the United States, are thoroughly contemporary, but with a significant difference – the Palestinian artist is deeply concerned with the historical fate of the Palestinian people and issues of life, death, freedom and justice.