All That is “Unknown” in Occupied Jerusalem
By: Rasha Hilwi
Published Friday, December 2, 2011
Gaza - Palestinian artists Mohamad Jeha and Hazem Hareb have combined their efforts in a project entitled “All that is Unknown,” offering an artistic and anthropological perspective on human history and everything it has witnessed from the age of Adam and Eve, to the current day.
To these artists, ever since the day Cain killed his brother Abel, man has been weaned on evil and on setting traps for others, through instinctive and conditioned plans and methods.
Humankind’s fear of each other, as well as the fear of an unknown future has turned into the straw that broke the camel's back. These fears, as well as humanity's inclination to choose harmful ways to achieve objectives, have forced us to build towering walls of a geographical and psychological nature; endless walls whose only purpose is that of separation.
These high “concrete walls” were built and raised to fortify psychological, temporal and geographical separation; they are manifested when one forces one’s self to abandon the other. Through painting, Jeha and Hareb managed to embody the relationship between man in general, particularly a Palestinian, and the psychological and geographical wall that has been imposed on him throughout history, since the Nakba in 1948 up to the Naksa in 1967. This includes the wars he endured in his homeland and those he had to endure wherever he was forcibly displaced to.
The paintings reflect many modern day issues and causes that pertain to the Arab world, like racist tendencies, schisms between social classes, and living standards. All these factors have a direct daily impact on man’s morale and physical structure wherever he is.
Through 21 paintings of different sizes, raw materials and mediums e.g. collage, acrylic, etc., the Palestinian artists portray these ideas. Their works mainly revolve around the concept of the Nakba, that led to the displacement of a people due to the strategic, coercive and racist policies of the Israeli occupation.
Mohammad Jeha, born in Gaza in 1978, and Hazem Hareb, born in Gaza in 1980, told al-Akhbar that “these paintings, though clear in their concepts, are a treatment of the general discourse and its narrative through the interplay of dynamic rhythms of hot and cold colors.”
According to Jeha, “the main elements in the paintings are their characters, whose features are vague despite the vibrancy, sharpness and richness of the colors on the canvas. The paintings convey an amalgam of feelings where reality intertwines with fiction and fuses into it; rendering the paintings a reflection of the contradictions we experience in the face of an uncertain and vague future.”
Despite the fact that the Arab world generally, and Palestine in particular, are reflected in their works, it is no surprise that the artists’ hometown, Gaza, or “the grey city” as they call it, is at the heart of their paintings.
Jeha sees that Gaza has the lion’s share in the exhibition, because the idea of “all that is unknown” applies to it.
“Gaza can be seen as a fertile breeding ground for the unknown, as the people of Gaza are subjected to rigid views and the limitations that are inflicted upon the fulfillment of the goals set for the city, due to its blockade. Divisions and conflicts led to different partisan tendencies and currents, not only on the general level of the community, but also on the level of households between siblings,” says Jeha.
Jeha and Hareb explain Gaza’s predominant presence in their works by saying “we are at the heart of the idea.”
“All that is Unknown” is a project for Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art and will be exhibiting in Jerusalem until December 15.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.