“Our mission is to get Palestinian artists known around the world, this is very important. Palestinian artists are unique, our work is related to our struggle. Some artists use traditional Palestinian symbolism and explore our struggle for land and freedom, others look at personal struggles. Art offers people a relationship to Palestine that can’t be taken from the media.”
Ziad Anani is clearly very passionate about Palestinian art. The son of Palestinian artist Nabil Anani, Ziad Anani grew up “surrounded by art works”. In December 2013 he staged his first “open house” exhibition in the house in which he was raised. His vision was to create a space in Ramallah in which Palestinian artists could show and promote their work.
More than two years after the project began, and with the family now living elsewhere in the city, the original Anani family house is now known at Zawyeh Gallery (Corner Gallery), and Anani hosts regular exhibitions as well as representing several Palestinian artists commercially.
The current exhibition opened at Zawyeh on Saturday 18th January. ‘Crossroads’ brings together the work of 6 Palestinian artists and although not intentionally tied by a thematic link, exhibition curator Sulieman Mleahat believes that in common with much Palestinian art, the struggle for ‘identity’ is strongly evident in all the works on show:
“The ability to articulate their own personal story is the strength or success of an artist. In these works, ‘identity’ manifests itself in many ways – intimate struggles of women, internal societal issues, national and political struggles, family, rebirth and transition. Nobody lives in a bubble – that includes Palestinian artists and this is reflected through their work.”
Alongside its work with established Palestinian artists, Zawyeh is also working to support ‘new’ artists – those who have yet to be firmly established on the international art scene. The gallery is also building a permanent collection of its own, a project that Anani sees as an attempt “to keep an important collection of Palestinian art within the country”.
Refusing to accept politically imposed borders of division yet unable to physically reach various areas of historic Palestine, Anani faces many challenges in bringing together works and artists from such areas. He is therefore forced to rely on trusted contacts in various areas and the internet to view work, yet this collective focus is fundamental to Zawyeh’s mission:
“‘Palestine’ is an historical country with a very sad history. Over time we have lost so much space and so many landscapes, but we – Palestinians – can’t accept divisions between each other. Palestinian artists in ’48’ invite me to their studios but I cant get there, the same with Gaza. We are all Palestinian artists but we cannot get to each other.”
Crossroads’ at Zawyeh Gallery, Ramallah, runs until February 4th and features works by Ayed Arafah, Hosni Radwan, Juhaina Kandalaft, Rana Samara, Samah Shihadi and Zohdy Qadry.
Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.