First Palestinian gallery in Art Dubai brings silent crowds to the fore

Ramallah- March 2016: The first Palestinian participation in Art Dubai (16 to 19 March 2016) is bringing the silent crowds witnessing unfolding events in the region to the fore. Gallery Zawyeh established in Ramallah in 2013, is to participate for the first time through a selection of paintings and custom-made sculptures by artist Jawad Al Malhi under the title “Measures of Uncertainty”.

The exhibition draws inspiration from hours of observing crowds in the Shufhat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, where Al Malhi resides. Agile boys who climb the electricity poles for better vantage points, the street vender who uses the moment to gain extra customers, the gaze and gestures of the observers and gossipers, all this is choreographed in liminal spaces and symbolic sites of nations communities.

“I have been watching, for some time now, the recurring spectacle of events across the Arab world, through the TV screen and from my balcony that overlooks my birthplace Shufhat Refugee Camp, home to over 60,000 Palestinian refugees most of whom were dispossessed from villages and neighbourhoods in West Jerusalem during the Nakba of 1948.” he says. “Throughout my work I see myself in a position of a witness interpreting and distilling unrecorded histories of the everyday, through observations that I accumulate over time of people and place. This is an important part of our daily histories but whose is misrepresented by the media,” he adds.

Measures of Uncertainty 9Al Malhi, whose family originates from Al Malha, now West Jerusalem, speaks of his body of work, which has evolved over several years saying, “In my painting series figures appear as if painted in dust, they appear as shadows, in sculpture they finally take form, however fragile. The sculptures are of everyday people, not monuments to famous individuals, politicians or war heroes, but to the boy who we see on our streets as active protagonists, observers and the disengaged as found in my paintings.”

“Measures of Uncertainty” is inspired by Al Malhi’s interest in the spatial articulations of crowds, in particular the time of waiting and how this is inscribed on the body and in relations to each other. “My gaze is drawn to the moments after the crowd starts to disperse. This is a time when exhaustion fills the body contouring its form along with uncertainty. It is a moment of hesitation, a fleeting moment, where people appear as fragile shells, as though light passes through them, reflecting shadows onto one another.”

Ziad Anani, Director and Founder of Gallery Zawyeh, says: “We are proud to be the first Palestinian Gallery to participate in this fair. We hope that our participation will bring a wider attention to the art scene in Palestine, which continues to thrive despite the ongoing occupation.”

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Zawyeh Gallery is an independent visual art space based in Ramallah, Palestine. It was founded by Ziad Anani in 2013. In addition to presenting local artists, the gallery’s mission is to promote established and emerging artists from Palestine to the international audience.