60 Years
In commemoration of the Nakba; artworks by Ahmad Nawash, Naji Al-Ali, and Suha Shoman

June – July 2008

Ahmad Nawash
"Ahmad Na’wash was fourteen years old when he was forced with his family to leave his native village of ‘Ain Karem... Overnight, the young Na’wash had to abandon the security of his ancestors' home and village after it fell under fire. Together the members of his family and fellow villagers were overwhelmed by panic. After days of walking, they finally reached Jericho and from there each family sought its ultimate safety beyond the Jordan River. In Jordan, Na’wash was to begin a life filled with trepidation, doubt, grief, and protracted waiting for a return back home.

As soon as the young artist found in drawing and painting his means of self-expression and throughout his maturation as a visual artist, all his works appeared to reflect the traits of an absurd world of beings that was possessed by the horrific images that were first etched in the mind of that village boy. His obsession with his own way of telling and his obstinate persistence may unlock the secret to his career, for through his distinctive representational language, Na’wash managed to construct a narrative panorama that embodied the subliminal experience of a personal nightmare. Through visual expression, Na’wash never stops to weave narratives that recount a child’s earliest experiences of panic, loss and the irremediable state of despair."

-Kamal Boullata (excerpts)

Suha Shoman
"In this year of 2008, on this anniversary of the 1948 Al Nakba, Suha Shoman, whose artworks may or may not usually engage the Israeli Palestinian conflict directly, are in a state of reflection. Where are we? Where are we going? And what should one say, after 60 years? What else could an artist possibly say about the 60 years of a complex, polarizing and already massively documented case of the Palestinian’s quest for independence?"

-Sama Alshaibi (excerpts)

Naji Al-Ali
"I don’t know when it was that I first met Naji al-Ali or when his drawings became a necessary companion to my morning coffee. However, I do know that it was he who made me start reading the newspaper beginning with its last page.

He was the last person I saw in Beirut after the great voyage into the sea. His final Beirut was a weeping rose… He used to make fun of himself because the invaders in Sidon thought him an old man due to the whiteness of his hair… He asked me where I was leaving to and I replied: I will wait until I know. I asked him if he was to stay and he said he would wait until he knew.

Neither of us was afraid because the dramatic spectacle in Beirut was larger than any emotion. And so Naji al-Ali drew Beirut as a single rose but we did not know - no one knew - that behind that rose lay a monster that was encroaching on our camps.

All of those who worked with him used to say that he had become unrestrained; that the wild fire within him was consuming everything; that his heart was on his brush and that his brush was quick to react and highly flammable, a brush that made no account for anything; that he felt Palestine was his own and that no one else had the right to attempt to express its sanctity for Palestine would not be returned in installments. Palestine would be returned in one instance, in one big swoop, from the river to the sea…

When Naji al-Ali was assassinated, musical notes escaped my heart and were replaced by darkness and a total suffocation of the senses, not because yet another friend, a brilliant friend, had passed away without a goodbye but because our lives had become exposed - open to complete confiscation, and because our enemies had been empowered to steer the dialogue of dispute among us to the their liking. They had been enabled to give the murdered the image of being a murderer that they had connivingly drawn up, with his spectators turned into those who had been killed.

And thus, loyalty to our martyrs and to our selves is not achieved through totalitarianism but through developing the essence of our democratic identity, through fighting, unconditionally and unabatedly, a battle for freedom and democracy for the Palestinian cause.

He has gone, but he has left behind him our collective heritage, the heritage of a people that is taking form in every which way it can…"

-Mahmoud Darwish (excerpts)