Establishing a Palestinian presence at the 2022 Venice Biennale – Middle East Monitor

Establishing a Palestinian presence at the 2022 Venice Biennale – Middle East Monitor

29 Aprile 2022 0 Di ken sharo

At the very centre of Palazzo Mora, an old Venetian building, I stepped across the front yard and then through rooms where workers were still setting up artworks from parallel shows, in preparation for the 2022 Venice Art Biennale running from 23 April to 27 November 2022. Finally, I found what I was looking for. A little taste of Palestine in the heart of this iconic Italian city.

Curated by Nancy Nesvet, head curator at the Palestine Museum in the US, the exhibition “From Palestine With Art” features 19 Palestinian artists from Palestine and across the diaspora.

Visitors are welcomed by artfully-stained curtains realised by Samar Hussaini. This is a strong first impression alongside the music; traditional Palestinian tunes ease visitors into the space and work at a subconscious level.

Palestinian portraits, 2022, by Jacqueline Bejani. Acrylic on canvas

Palestinian portraits, 2022, by Jacqueline Bejani. Acrylic on canvas
[Courtesy of The Palestinian Museum US]

Looking around the room, you see an olive tree and several paintings that hit you with their joyous colours, intense photographic pieces, sculptures and installations hanging from the walls. It’s all a heartfelt puzzle reflecting the country itself.

As I stepped carefully on a historic map of Palestine covering the gallery floor, a man dressed in red sitting on a bench in the centre of the room told me, “You can walk on it, you know!” That’s how I met Faisal Saleh, a former businessman and now director of the Palestinian Museum in the US. He organised the show.

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The floor piece, he explained, is an 1877 map produced by cartographer and historian Salman Abu-Sitta, who has mapped his country. “The significance of this map is that it shows Palestine before Zionism. There is not a single settlement on it; it’s the land as pure as it was. It’s the Palestine that Palestinians belong to, from the river to the sea. This is a very strong statement that the Palestinians are not willing to give up their land.”

It doesn’t take much to notice how political this show is. And it couldn’t be anything else, given that the Venice Biennale, the biggest event in the art world, has never had a Palestinian pavilion in its entire 125-year history. Only in 2003 did Biennale curator Francesco Bonami foreshadow the possibility of a Palestinian Pavilion, but amidst sadly predictable accusations of “anti-Semitism”, this didn’t happen.

In 2009, though, the Biennale hosted an all-Palestinian collateral show called “Salwa Mikdadi’s Palestine c/o Venice”, addressing the Palestinian diaspora and the ongoing Nakba (Catastrophe). Later on, occasional Palestinian participation was seen in Venice, but never cohesively, and always affiliated with other countries.

Sorgente: Establishing a Palestinian presence at the 2022 Venice Biennale – Middle East Monitor