Rebecca R. Gould


Kamal Boullata

Palestinian Art After Catastrophe

How Palestinians represent their displacement

Maher Naji, showing the Palestinian olive harvest via Palestine Museum (US)

Throughout my painting career, the experience of light had always been central to my work. Perhaps it is the light of Jerusalem that I have been seeking to recapture all along.

Assembling the author’s prior writings on Palestinian art (many of which first appeared in Arabic) into a single book, Palestinian Art is the most complete and comprehensive discussion of the history of Palestinian art available in English, and it deserves to be more widely known. In this article I will introduce Boullata’s work and reflect on its broad significance.

Cover of Palestinian Art: From 1850 to the Present

Mona Hatoum, “Hot Spot,” via Wikipedia

While “most people are principally aware of one culture, one setting, one home,” writes Said, “exiles are aware of at least two, and this plurality of vision gives rise to an awareness of simultaneous dimension” (p. 331).

Cover of Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, oil on wood (1946) via Wikipedia

So long as the Palestinian imagination flourishes as it does in these visual creations, Boullata suggests, we have solid grounds for hope regarding Palestinians’ future. The publication of Boullata’s magnum opus in English should act as a stimulus to future scholarship on pre-1850 Palestinian art as well as for further comparative work on Palestinian art in the present. In doing so, it will help us to understand the Palestinian plight from a vantage point that is all too often marginalized in political debate: that of artistic creation.

Kamal Boulatta, “In the Beginning was the Word,” via Barjeel Art Foundation

This review first appeared here.


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