History and Theory, Bezalel //   Issue No. 2 - New Approaches in Contemporary Curating, Spring 2006
The Case of the Hagar Art Gallery
Tal Ben-Zvi

Hagar gallery was founded in Jaffa 2001, and was shut down 2003. It has shown 16 exhibitions, among them 10 of Palestinian artists, such as: Ahlam Shibli, Sami Bukhari, Reida Adon, Ashraf Fawakhry, Ahlam Jomah, Jumana Emil Abboud, Anisa Ashkar and Sharif Waked.
This paper is based on an introduction to a catalog – Hagar: Contemporary Palestinian Art, 2006, published by Hgar Association. In my paper I will maintain that the exhibitions in the gallery were part of the representation of the Palestinian minority in Israel. In this context I refer to 3 subjects: The first issue is the parallelactivity of Palestinian artists in the Israeli art scene and the Palestinian art field. The second issue put emphasis on an inner perspective, focusing on Palestinian history, on the represenation of the Nakba of 1948, and on the relations of power and the oppression of the Palestinian minority within Israel. The third issue has to do with the Arabic language as defining and marking the boundaries of inner-Palestinian space.



The case of the Hagar Art Gallery[1]

 

Hagar Art Gallery in Jaffa was founded in 2001, and during its three years of operation has featured sixteen solo exhibitions, ten of them by Palestinian artists.[2]

 

Hagar Art Gallery was located in a three-room apartment on the fourth floor of a residential building, all of whose inhabitants are Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Gallery's main exhibition space was the living room bounded by sliding glass doors. From there, eye contact was created between the interior of the apartment and the gallery's terrace, and therefrom the roof opened onto a broad view of Jaffa's al-Ajami neighborhood. Hagar Art Gallery in Jaffa's al-Ajami neighborhood is not only the real and metaphorical background and arena for the art works' presence; to a large extent it is also an expression of the boundaries of this discourse of presence in the fields of art and culture in Israel. Featuring the solo exhibitions of these artists along a continuous sequence was intended to allow for the works' reading in a bi-national and bi-lingual display space which spans contexts, interpretations, and perspectives of the field of Israeli art, alongside those of the Palestinian minority in Israel.[3]

 

In this article, I shall focus on three issues that characterize the artistic activity of the Palestinian minority in Israel: The first issue is the parallel activity of Palestinian artists in the Israeli art field and in the Palestinian art field. The second issue is the inside perspective – or in other words, focusing on Palestinian history, on the representation of the Nakba of 1948, and on the relations of power and oppression of the Palestinian minority within Israel. The third issue is the Arabic language as defining and marking the boundaries of inner-Palestinian space.

 

And finally I shall ask: Is there a future for critical political representation of the Palestinian minority in Israel as part of the Israeli art field?

I shall begin with the first issue. As I have already noted, the artistic work of the Palestinian artists who were presented in the Hagar Gallery takes place simultaneously in the Palestinian art field and in the Israeli art field.

Palestinian society defines its identity through various remote and detached communities. Its description as a society whose unity stems precisely from its divergence is due to its unique structure: a society that extends over four different geographical loci. This principle of a unified cultural field based on divergence and a multi-dimensional intricacy – geographical, social and historical – has had a crucial impact on the Palestinian art field.

 

Indeed, similar to the structure of Palestinian society, the Palestinian art field also extends over four major geographic centers: in the West Bank and Gaza, inside Israel, in the Palestinian diaspora in the Arab world, and in the Palestinian diaspora in Europe and the US.

 

While members of all four groups co-exhibit in various shows of Palestinian art featured in cultural centers, museums and galleries in the Arab world, Europe, and the US, as well as in international exhibitions, such as biennials and the Documenta, where they participate as Palestinian representatives, to date there is not a single museum in the Palestinian Authority, in Israel, or in the Palestinian diasporas exclusively dedicated to Palestinian art and its unique features.

 

The Palestinian art field is characterized, as aforesaid, by three major elements: 1) Palestinian artists residing in four separate geographical territories who sustain a differentiated national cultural field despite the geographic differences; 2) the absence of "Palestinian" institutions of art studies and training throughout the world, including the Palestinian Authority; 3) the absence of a historical museum infrastructure. Hence, it may be said that unlike sovereign nation-states where the art field is based on national borders, national museums and institutes of learning, the Palestinian art field is based chiefly on artists operating within the frame of a Palestinian identity.

 

The artists Ahlam Shibli, Reida Adon, Ashraf Fawakhry, Ahlam Jomah, Jumana Emil Abboud, Anisa Ashkar, and Sharif Waked - are graduates of art schools in Israel. Sami Bukhari studied in France. They were all born in Israel and live in Haifa, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Acre and Taibe. They are Israeli citizens and part of the Palestinian minority in Israel, which is about 18% of Israel’s population.

 

Discussing the characteristics of this identity, Azmi Bishara maintains:[4]

From both the historical and theoretical perspectives, the Arabs in Israel are part of the Palestinian Arab people. Their definition as "Israeli Arabs" was formed concurrent with the emergence of the issue of the Palestinian refugees, and the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins of the Palestinian people. Thus, the point of departure from which the history of the Palestinians in Israel is written is the very point in which the history of the Palestinians outside Israel was created. One cannot point at a nationality or national group called "Israeli Arabs" or "the Arabs of Israel".

 

Bishara's definition pinpoints the identity of this group of artists in a dialectic sphere: on the one hand, as part of a broad Palestinian cultural system, and on the other – in a differentiated manner – as the Palestinian minority in Israel. Dan Rabinowitz and Khawla Abu-Baker[5] note that this generation was born into the reality of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967, and the paradox created by that war: the decisive military outcome persuaded many Palestinians to accept the long-term presence of the Jewish-dominated state, and the fact that as citizens of Israel they were tied to the state and its fate; at the same time, it led to renewed contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and through them – with diasporic Palestinians throughout the Middle East, and to association with geographical and cultural realms where Israel plays a minor role.

 

This parallel activity, in Israel and in the Palestinian authority, stems first and foremost from the biography of this group of artists, who were born or raised after 1967. This generation was born into the reality of the Israeli occupation in the territories. The first Intifada in 1987 secured international recognition of the PLO, and later on led to the Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and in 1994-1996 – to the IDF's withdrawal from Palestinian urban centers. At that time, alongside the establishment of the Palestinian Authority as a national entity, several culture centers and galleries were established within the Palestinian Authority, gradually constructing the Palestinian art field as it is known to us today. In recent years, a growing number of Palestinian artists exhibit within the Palestinian Authority territory, even during the El-Akza Intifada in October 2000 and following it.

 

In the wake of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in October 2000 and the bloody events during demonstrations in the country's north in which thirteen Palestinian citizens were killed,[6] the struggle of Palestinian citizens for rights, status, and identity, both in the State of Israel where they live as citizens and in the Palestinian people to which they belong, was reinforced. This dual disposition, oscillating between civil affiliation and national identity, prompted the shift from the identity construct Israeli-Arabs which employs hyphenated cultural conditions to the identity construct Palestinian Citizens of Israel which draws away from the multi-cultural identity, placing the definition in the sphere of national identity.

 

The Hagar Art gallery activity takes place, in effect, within two parallel cultural fields: As part of the Palestinian art field the gallery endeavors to structure an intra-Palestinian artistic discourse in Arabic as part of the culture of a national minority within the 1948 borders and as part of a broader culture shared by Palestinian artists from various disciplines who are active in the Palestinian field of art, vis-à-vis the scant representation of Palestinian artists in galleries and museums in the center and the periphery alike. As part of the Israeli art field, the gallery sets out to challenge the Hebrew/Jewish/Israeli/western character of the field, attempting to undermine the absolute hegemony of the Hebrew language in the discussion of art works, the virtually exclusive presence of Jewish artists, and the works' anchoring in the history of Israeli art and with regard to the construction of an Israeli national identity – all this within the western-Europocentric logic of the field.

 

The inside perspective

 

The second issue was the fact that some of the exhibitions addressed the power relations and the oppression of the Palestinian minority in Israel. Therefore, while the Israeli artists turn their criticism from home towards the oppression in the occupied territories, Palestinian artists have turned such criticism inwards, towards the reality of the Palestinian minority within Israel.

 

In 2002, the artist Sami Bukhari presented the exhibition “Panorama”, which documented the results of the power relations in Jaffa. In his exhibition Panorama, Sami Bukhari endeavored to map, delineate and document the boundaries of "Arab Jaffa" along the timeline before and after 1948.[7] Bukhari climbed to the rooftop of the tallest building in Jaffa, a nursing home for Jewish senior citizens on Yefet Street, and took photographs of all four directions: north, south, east, and west. This point of view, the highest in Jaffa, as aforesaid, is a central observation point that expands the knowledge exposed through photography, pointing at spatial control and power; it is no coincidence that it is also used by the police to photograph demonstrations.

 

The photographic act exposes the rooftops, the relations between the old and the new construction in Jaffa, as well as the vacant lots which appear like open wounds in the succession of residential buildings in the neighborhood. The open areas are, in fact, lots left after the demolition of homes. Demolition is the result of municipal policy towards these neighborhoods, striving to prepare the ground for a redevelopment plan that would absorb Jewish population instead of the existing Arab population. For this purpose Amidar (Israel's National Housing Corporation) and Halamish (Government-Municipal Company for Housing Renewal) perform systematic demolition of housing units in Jaffa as a whole, and in the neighborhoods of al-Ajami and Jibalya in particular.[8]

 

The vacant lots are juxtaposed with another series of photographs where Bukhari documents Jaffa's old Muslim cemetery, al-Kazchana. The series depicts the gravestones which preserve architectural motifs prevalent in residential buildings: arches, columns, capitals. The cemetery is clearly eroded: the cliff, which forms its western section, has been eroded by the waves, and the cemetery itself appears as though it is on the verge of collapsing into the sea. The photographic act ostensibly postpones the pending catastrophe, providing a tranquil picture: gravestones against the backdrop of a blue sea. Nevertheless, the series evokes a sense of a grand historical past seen in its ruin, and the sense of death is enhanced by the gravestone's transience and disintegration. When juxtaposed, these two panoramic series sketch an analogy between the death prevailing in the cemetery photographs, and the post-Nakba (the Palestinian "Catastrophe" of 1948) Jaffa, with the cultural and social death it brought in its wake.

 

In the series Boar, the relationship between the photographic act and the representation of death becomes more acute. Bukhari shows a boar, immediately after its hunting, documenting the process in which he opens the dead boar's eye in a series of photographs. The vitality of the eye looks back at the camera, as if bringing the dead body back to life. In another photograph, the boar's head is placed on a platter, thus invoking the association of a victor bringing the head of the defeated leader.

 

Bukhari created a metaphorical link between the boar image as a representation of sin (in the Muslim and Jewish religions), and the image of post-1948 Jaffa as a reminder of sin an outcast in Israeli reality.

 

The Nakba is also the subject of Raida Adon’s exhibition Pasateen (“dresses”), presented in 2002.[9] In her video art installation Adon juxtaposes two video works which together form a complementary narrative system: one room features eight upright black dresses hovering amidst the empty walls of the deserted stone houses in the village of Lifta, below the entrance road to Jerusalem; the other room shows the artist in the figure of Aisha from the play Pasateen, summing up her life from the 1948 Nakba to the present.

Lifta, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, is one of the few villages not entirely destroyed after 1948. The video presents the dresses amidst fifty-five original stone houses that still stand. In the passage between the stone houses, Raida Adon addresses the “Present Absentees” from Lifta, the camera shifts to the blue sky, on which the artist writes in Arabic:

I wanted them to talk, but they must have been worried about their words, of their chill. Something was holding them back December 28; they will save the answers so they can thrust them all at once, December-January 1947, without a voice in the silence (February) 1948.

 

The dates are directly borrowed from Ki La Ninsa (All That Remains), historian Walid Khalidi's well-known book. [10]

 

As opposed to the silence of the Present Absentees,[11] the second video features Adon playing the character of Aisha, who recounts her story in Arabic. Aisha al Sangrawiyah, who has resided in a Palestinian refugee village in Damascus since 1948, withholds her body from her husband Ahmad abu il-Abed, conditioning her surrender with a return to her village Sejera in Palestine – a condition which is underlain by a radical independent dimension against the patriarchal setting in which Aisha's figure operates. The sex strike has several precedents; the best known among them is described in Aristophanes's Lysistrata. But unlike Lysistrata, where the women seize the Acropolis, and the sexual starvation forces the men to yield to their wishes, so that the comedy ends traditionally with reconciliation and peace, Aisha's case is different. She concludes:

Abu al-Abed was offended and got up, and ever since that day he never came near me. It's been years, and we live in Damascus. My body has chilled and died, and I stopped thinking about it. […] And so, years have gone by, and my cousin died, prevented from me and from Sejera.

 

The demise of the sexual body and its cooling, the result of the radical female conditioning, are reinforced in the other video, where the female body is obliterated, becoming a phantom that moves in space through the blowing winds of memory, filling the empty black dresses, amidst Lifta's deserted stone houses and in the waters of the puddle that move one of the dresses floating on it. The erased body is represented by the textual position of the subject, "I wanted", and the figure becomes a real subject only when she demands a place and a role in national collective memory.

 

The memory of the Nakba in the context of Palestinian culture is a direct result of the absence of a nation-state. In other words, the uprooting from village life to the refugee camps, and the fact that the majority of Palestinian society lives outside the borders of historical Palestine, have anchored the Nakba as the national Palestinian tragedy. This memory has been gradually constructed as a collective national memory via stories, in poetry, prose, and art.

 

Adon's desire "I wanted them to talk" is a demand of the "remembering self" to organize the past, the present, and the future along a continuum which has psychological, cultural and moral meanings.

 

The dialectic positive-negative position of the absent present is embodied both in the figure of the woman as a ghost, a living-dead, and in the figure of the woman whose sexuality is forbidden in her lifetime.[12] This dialectic approach links the sexual body with the concept of "body of knowledge" which expresses the urge to remember, to preserve the memory, and to generate a text which is irreplaceable in the construction of collective memory.

 

The fact that the video-art work itself was presented without simultaneous translations, and that the text explaining Aisha’s words was placed outside the gallery, made it possible for the critical gender-based text to exist first and foremost within an inner-Palestinian space, and only later on to be translated into Hebrew and English outside the gallery.

 

The Arabic Language

 

Defining Arabic as demarcating the intra-Palestinian sphere implies, in fact, that it is the language of a national minority.[13] While Arabic is the second official language in Israel, it is almost entirely absent from the civil public sphere throughout all its manifestations: billboards, street names, municipal and intercity signposts, government forms, hospitals, etc. Hebrew, on the other hand, dominates the linguistic landscape, and is identified with the power relations of the Israeli majority, with all the consequent implications.

 

Anisa Ashkar’s exhibition, “Barbur Aswad”, actually concluded the activity of the Hagar Art Gallery. It opened in July 2003, and in September the gallery was closed.

 

The Arabic language that appears in the works of art marks the boundaries of the inner-Palestinian sphere. Barbur (Heb. for swan) is the name of the artist's neighborhood, whose Hebrew name was given to it after the construction of a ceramic factory by the name of Barbur in proximity to the residential houses, forming a severe hazard to the environment and inhabitants alike.[14] In the exhibition Ashkar supplements the pastoral name "barbur" with the Arabic word "aswad" – black.

 

Ashkar rejects the bilingual disposition that has become rooted in her place of residence. She transforms the swan (barbur) into a black swan. Blackness that functions as an immediate stereotypical marker of ethnic and cultural differences. This choice generates absolute borders between a system of language and identity which is marked as black, and an entire culture that has chosen to call itself "white" and which associates Ashkar, in terms of identity and identification, with the culture of national ethnic minorities.[15]

 

The non-translated Arabic language was presented in the exhibition in three parts. First, as part of the performance art “Barbur Aswad”, which was presented completely in the Arabic language. Secondly, in the installation on the balcony, and thirdly in a series of photographs.

 

The first part, the performance, opened the exhibition on the evening of July 17, 2003, on the gallery's terrace. The performance included two participants: Anisa Ashkar who was wearing a black dress, and a man whose identity was unknown to the audience. The man sat in a bathtub and read aloud the text "Umha bint el-Khert advising her daughter on her wedding night" in Arabic from the book A Collection of the Arabs' Speeches in the Golden Age. To the sound of the man's authoritative voice, the artist was seen pouring milk into a pot, boiling the milk with black ink. She then started rubbing the man's body aggressively. Throughout the performance the artist bathes the man while giving him orders in Arabic, such as 'raise your hands', 'turn your back', 'bend', etc. The violent ritual is accompanied, from beginning to end, with the voice of the man reading the mother's advice to her daughter, blending with the sounds of the al-Ajami neighborhood rising from the street. When the bathing ritual ends, the man gets up, turning toward one of the balcony bars. Ashkar sits before him, her head bent on her knees, and he places his hand on her head, praying: "Allah hu Akbar" – Allah is great.

 

The second part, the installation, spanned the terrace itself, bounded by Tsibi Geva's iron bars which stayed as permanent bars since his exhibition Lattice. Between the bars, in modern, geometric patterns repeated along the balcony, the artist painted a black arabesque pattern in tar. On the columns she inscribed the Arabic script of the text which the man read out loud in the previous performance.

 

In the third part of the exhibition Ashkar inscribes sentences on her face which are a repetition of linguistic precedents, some historical and cultural extracted from the existent, others – her own creation. The phrases – 'Freedom guides the nation'; 'You have betrayed the homeland, and what else?'; I and the Acre sea are alike, we are both salty'; 'I'm a woman, why?'; 'Note: I am a free Arab woman'; 'Take care'; 'The land belongs to those who respect it' – generate a continuum between the gendered and the national and personal, and can only be read partially, as part of what may be termed intertextual art.

 

Hamid Naficy [16]describes intertextual art as textual multiplicity which negates the status of the text as a unique, natural text, since the spectators are forced to engage in several simultaneous actions of watching, translating and reading. However, because these techniques do not necessarily support each other due to their asynchrony and critical juxtaposition, the spectatorial activities do not fuse into an easily coherent interpretation."

 

The artist writes on her face in Arabic, a ritual which she performs daily before leaving for her studies at the Beit Berl Art College, an Israeli school of art where studies are exclusively in Hebrew. The Israeli viewer who encounters Ashkar in the public sphere (while walking on the street, in the bus station, and in the art school) identifies and marks her simultaneously as Arab and "other", but usually cannot tell what is written on her face. On the other hand, the Palestinian viewer encountering Ashkar in the same sphere identifies and even reads the Arab text inscribed on her face, but cannot decode the text in full since some of it is written in mirror image.

 

The isolation of the text, ultimately introduced as an implicit code, at the same time marks and identifies its writer with an intricate system of otherness in an essentially ethnocratic public sphere, in fact expressing the modi operandi of contemporary Palestinian artists who operate separately from one another, artists whose personal works “from within’ have been described here.

 

This presence continued until the Gallery's closing in the summer of 2003, whereafter the exhibition space resumed its function as a family apartment, a return that attests both to the temporary nature of the critical position and to its place within life itself.

In my closing words I shall ask: Is there a future for critical political representation of the Palestinian minority in Israel as part of the Israeli art field?

 

The universities in Israel play a major role in the definition of Palestinian minority in Israel. The collective activity of students who are Palestinian citizens of Israel characterizes campuses in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but stands in stark contrast to the activity of individuals seen in the art institutions in Israel, attended by a maximum of three Palestinian students per year.

 

Despite the scarcity of Palestinian students who graduate from art studies each year, their consistent presence, since the 1990s, generates a cumulating representation of Palestinian artists in both the Israeli and the Palestinian art fields. Furthermore, in-between the two cultural fields – the Israeli and the Palestinian – the studies of those Palestinian artists who attend Israeli academic institutions call for a process of socialization with some unique postcolonial features. First of all, the artist is forced to develop his artistic modes of expression in a language which is not his mother tongue, often a foreign language as far as he is concerned, for the language of studies is Hebrew, not Arabic; second, the artist's culture – Arab or Palestinian – is not part of the curriculum; for, the system's habitus, namely the cultural and artistic context, is anchored in the inter-space between the western and the Israeli art fields; third, not only is the Palestinian artist not represented by the official system, but the latter excludes and thus effaces the Arab-Palestinian culture from which he hails; finally, since the Israeli art field as a national field generally perceives the Arab Palestinian artist as an "other", namely as foreign to the local culture, it ultimately prevents his representation as an immanent part of the field.

 

As part of the Israeli art field, they exhibit their work today as Palestinian artists, but only when there is a political awareness and an understanding of the transition from the Israeli-Arabs definition to a definition of their identity as Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. As graduates of art schools in Israel, they exhibit in graduate shows, and later on mainly in group shows in museums and galleries. Only a small number – between 1 and 3 artists a year, attain a solo exhibition that is accompanied by an interpretive text and a catalogue.

 

In relation to interpretive and critical writing about Palestinian art, one of the ways to map this issue of representation is by locating a possible arena for the existence of critical narratives, and quantifying their presence. Thus, for example, with regard to Palestinian artists, graduates of art school in Israel; a perusal of the index issues of the Israeli art magazine, Studio, from 1994-2004 (editor-in-chief: Sarah Breitberg-Semel) reveals that throughout the given period there were no theoretical or historical essays about Palestinian artists and their work, even though these are graduates of Israeli art schools and despite the fact that their work was presented in key galleries and museums in the Israeli art field. [17]

 

My contention, that contemporary Palestinian art has not been accepted in the Israeli art field, is based on the criterion of visibility in the public sphere – or in other words, the issue of representation, not only quantitative – the number of group exhibitions – but also qualitative, through the special status of solo museum or gallery exhibitions, accompanied by an interpretive text and catalogue.

 

As in any struggle of a cultural minority, whether it is based on gender, nationality, ethnic origin or religion – the Palestinian minority in Israel calls for civilian equality, and so the issue of representation is of-course crucial.

 

The fact that in the Israeli art field – liberal, enlightened and politically correct curators working in museums and public galleries can go through many years of curative activity without presenting even one solo exhibition of a contemporary Palestinian artist – is a fact that raises the question: Is there a future for critical political representation of the Palestinian minority in Israel as part of the Israeli art field?

 

 


[1] The Hagar Gallery Catalogue, is due to be published at the end of this month. This lecture is based on the catalogue’s introduction essay. Tal Ben Zvi,The Voyage In” from: Hagar - Contemporary Palestinian Art, exh. cat. (Tel Aviv: Hagar, 2006)

[2] See the Hagar Art Gallery website: www.hagar-gallery.com.

[3] This process continues the production of trilingual (Hebrew-Arabic-English) catalogues documenting the works of Israeli and Palestinian artists. See: Tal Ben Zvi, A New Middle East: 11 Solo Exhibitions at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, exh. cat. (Tel Aviv: Hagar, 2000); Tal Ben Zvi and Yael Lerer (eds.), Self Portrait: Palestinian Women's Art (Tel Aviv: Andalus, 2001); Tal Ben Zvi, Brunette: 16 Solo Exhibitions at Heinrich Böll Foundation, exh. cat. (Tel Aviv: Babel, 2003); Tal Ben Zvi, Mother Tongue, exh. cat. in Eastern Appearance: A Present that Stirs in the Thickets of Its Arab Past, Yigal Nizri (ed.) (Tel Aviv: Babel, 2004).

[4] Azmi Bishara, "On the Question of the Palestinian Minority in Israel," Theory and Criticism, 3, 1993, p. 7 [Hebrew]; English abstract, pp. 148-147.

[5] . Dan Rabinowitz and Khawla Abu-Baker, Coffins on Our Shoulders: The Experience of the Palestinian Citizens of Israel (California: The University of California Press, 2005), p. 11.

[6] At the center of the events was the figure of 17-year-old Asil Asleh, shot during the October events in his village Arrabeh in the Galilee. The fact that Asleh was a peace activist in organizations promoting co-existence, as well as the circumstances of his death (he was shot at close range while lying on the ground), caused shock throughout the country, among the Palestinian population and the Israeli peace camp. In the exhibition 13 Live Bullets featured in Tel Aviv during 2001, curator and artist Shula Keshet presented shelves with photos of the thirteen victims, personal diaries, and a video piece, Four Mothers, comprising the testimonies of four of the October victims' mothers. See Tal Ben Zvi, Brunette: 16 Solo Exhibitions at Heinrich Böll Foundation, exh. cat. (Tel Aviv: Babel, 2003), pp. 102-107.

[7] The Palestinian population which remained in Israel after 1948 numbered some 150,000. In Jaffa, whose original population was estimated at 70,000-80,000, only 4,000-5,000 citizens remained after 1948.

[8] Between 1975 and 1985 2,515 housing units were demolished within the boundaries of Mandatory Jaffa, regardless of their physical condition. See: Dan Yahav, Jaffa, Bride of the Sea, from a Major City to Slums: A Model of Spatial Inequality (Tel Aviv: Tammuz, 2004), p. 317 [Hebrew].

[9] The installation was created in continuation of the artist's work and involvement as actress in the play Pasateen by Muhammad 'Ali Taha presented at Acre Theater in October 2001.

[10] See: Walid Khalidi (ed.), All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 (Washington: Institute for Palestinian Studies, 1992).

[11] Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal note that "Palestinians prevented from returning to their homes and land, even though they stayed within the country during the war, were officially classified as 'present-absentees'. Thus the State was able to confiscate their 'abandoned land' through the Absentees Property Law of 1950. According to one estimate, up to 40% of Arab land (some 500,000 acres) were confiscated through this law." See: Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal, Palestinians: The Making of a People (New York: Free Press, 1993). For an elaborate historical discussion, see: Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987), p. 96.

[12] Ghosts returning to the houses of the absent-present are also seen in Ahlam Shibli's exhibition "Wadi Saleib in Nine Volumes" (Curator: Tal Ben Zvi). For an elaborate exhibition text, see: Tal Ben Zvi, A New Middle East: 11 Solo Exhibitions, exh. cat. (Tel Aviv: Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2000).

[13] For an elaborate discussion on Arabic as a minority language in Israel, see: Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) Newsletter, vol. 14, June 2005, http://www.adalah.org/newsletter/eng/jun05/jun05.html.

[14] The Barbur neighborhood in Acre is "unrecognized" and its inhabitants are denied municipal services. It took a lengthy struggle before the Acre Municipality connected the neighborhood to the electricity grid in 2003. The background to Barbur's neglect is an ongoing struggle against the residents in the desire to evacuate them and transform the neighborhood area into a green area and railway siding. For a discussion of the objection to the municipal scheme proposed for the neighborhood, see: www.mahsom.com, 25 May 2005.

[15] Blackness as a visual category was a major theme in the exhibition "Mother Tongue" (curator: Tal Ben Zvi) at Mishkan Le'Omanut, Museum of Art, Ein Harod, 2002. The exhibition dealt with representations of Mizrahi Jewish identities in the work of 22 artists, most of them born in Israel, whose parents' migration from Arab-Muslim countries to Israel is integral to the definition of their identities. The chapter "Blackness: Recoding Mizrahiness" explored references to Black identity in general, and African-American identity in particular, from Mizrahi perspectives in the work of Zamir Shatz, Netta Harari-navon, Tal Matzliah, Eli Petel, and Miriam Cabessa. See: Tal Ben Zvi, "Deferring Language as a Theme in the Work of Mizrahi Artists," in Eastern Appearance: A Present that Stirs in the Thickets of Its Arab Past, ed.: Yigal Nizri (Tel Aviv: Babel, 2004), pp. 107-128.

[16] Hamid Naficy, An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001), pp. 124-125.

[17] See Studio, index issues nos. 75, 86, 97, 107, 117, 127, 136, 146, 155.

 

 

About the Author :
Tal Ben-Zvi is an Israeli Artist Curator, living and working in Tel-Aviv. Since January 2002 she is the curator of Hagar Art Gallery. She was the curator of the art apace Heinrich Boll foundation office in Tel-Aviv. She studied at the Haifa university in fine arts and art history (B.A.); the new seminar for visual culture, Camera Obscura, Tel-Aviv; currently working on her thesis on Palestinian art, at the Yolanda and David Katz faculty of the Arts Graduate School, Tel-Aviv University. Ben Zvi is lecturing at Camera Obscura school of art, Tel-Aviv, and Bezalel academy of art and design, Jerusalem

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