“On This Land” Exhibition at Alserkal Avenue Melds Palestinian Artistry with Cultural Dialogue

Over 100 artworks, each a window into the soul of Palestine, came alive at Alserkal Avenue's 'On This Land' exhibition

“On This Land” Exhibition at Alserkal Avenue Melds Palestinian Artistry with Cultural Dialogue
Menna Shanab

Alserkal Avenue welcomed over 1,800 art enthusiasts on the evening of November 20, 2023 for the inaugural unveiling of “On This Land,” an exhibition meticulously curated to spotlight the diversity of Palestinian art and culture and to offer a space for dialogue and understanding – a platform where art becomes a storyteller of heritage.

The event was conceived as a collaborative venture between The Palestinian Museum, the Barjeel Art Foundation, and Alserkal Arts Foundation. Their collective efforts culminated in a three-day immersive experience that married years of extensive research with the urgency of present-day discourse.

The exhibition’s narrative arc bends towards introspection and collective understanding and it’s especially poignant given the current inaccessibility of the Palestinian Museum. The atmosphere was a careful orchestration of sensory experiences. Over 100 artworks grace the space, ranging from digital archives to tactile sculptures and evocative paintings, each telling a story of Palestinian identity and resilience.

Central to the exhibition’s visual dialogue is Sliman Mansour’s emblematic piece—a woman clad in traditional Palestinian attire, standing resolute before an olive tree. This image, emblematic of Palestinian endurance, is complemented by Layan Shawabkeh’s “Ladies of Gaza,” which takes a deep dive into the lives of women in Gaza woven from a year-long research endeavor.

The presence of artists like Jawad Malhi and the heartfelt accounts related to Nahil Bishara’s “The Watermelon Farmer” (1956) enrich the exhibition’s narrative, bridging past and present struggles of Palestinian life. Further, the works of Taysir Batniji and Mona Hatoum, through paper and sculpture, challenge and intrigue the viewer in equal measure.

Alserkal Avenue

Beyond the artworks, the atmosphere was a careful orchestration of sensory experiences. High-reaching sheets bearing snapshots from the Palestinian digital archive converse with a centrally placed art cube, heavy with historical significance. This visual dialogue is complemented by the subtle infusion of sage fragrance and the authentic flavours of Rummaniyeh, courtesy of Hayas Kitchen.

Opening remarks by cultural luminaries like Vilma Jurkute of Alserkal Initiatives and Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi of the Barjeel Art Foundation set a contemplative tone for the evening, framing the artworks within a broader cultural and historical context.

Alserkal Avenue

The highlight of the evening was Hazem Harb’s live artistic charcoal performance. Breaking a decade-long retreat from charcoal, Harb’s creation of an expansive 10m artwork live on-site was a visceral representation of loss and memory. His line-drawn faces, emerging from the black carbon charcoal, seemed to echo the lingering shadows of Gaza.

Alserkal Avenue

“On This Land” is a journey through the heart of Palestinian culture and cultural memory. It invites its audience to not just observe but deeply engage with the narratives of Palestine— vibrantly alive in the strokes of its artists.

For more stories like this about Alserkal Avenue and “On This Land”, check out our dedicated Art & Culture pages.