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Beirut art exhibition pays tribute to Palestinian ‘prisoners of freedom’

by Apr 19, 2022Arab News

Historical posters display. (TAW)
Historical posters display. 

An art exhibition dedicated to “the prisoners of freedom”, is being hosted by the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) at its gallery in Beirut.

The display, which continues throughout the month of April, includes artworks by 30 men and women artists from Palestine and the world.

It is taking place as part of the commemorations for Palestinian Prisoner’s Day on April 17 of each year.

The event illustrates the faith in freedom and the incontrovertible and unstoppable recovery of legitimate rights by those who have been forcefully deprived of them.

It also includes 13 historical posters from the IPS foundation’s archives, among them some from the “Dar El-Nimer for Culture and Arts” archive.

The curator of the exhibition, Rana Anani, said it contains artworks by prisoners who depicted the environment where they live.

This is not a presentation of commissioned artworks.  The artists were not asked to produce specific paintings to fit the occasion.

The exhibited artworks showcase the horrors and multiple forms of oppression experienced by the Palestinians inside and outside their homeland. They depict violations that have impinged upon all their freedoms in a world where the values ​​of liberty are trampled beneath the weight of unchecked power, which is devoid of any legitimacy.

A view from the exhibition. (TAW)
A view from the exhibition. 

Most of the works were not crudely propagandist.  Many carry more than one meaning as they shed a bright light through the shadow of absolute darkness.

The exhibition is very diverse and includes paintings with different materials and media. There are also sculptures, installations, videos, photographs and posters.

The display does not only include the work of  Palestinians but also of artists from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Britain and the Netherlands.

Shipping the artworks of prisoners to Beirut proved to be an arduous task due to the restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities. This is something with which local and international artists such as Suleiman Mansour and Nabil Anani are all too familiar.

It may seem unfair to focus on any particular painting or artwork, especially when all exhibited works have clear and expressive artistic value. But one should congratulate the organisers for the selection of the painting by Palestinian artist Munther Jawabreh for display at the head of the exhibition catalogue titled “Broken Time”.

Jawabreh’s painting portrays the fragility of the prison experience because it is unjust and contradicts inevitable freedom. The time of incarceration can only break to allow for the flow of another time stream, which is more deserving of existence. It is the time of truth and freedom.

The artist completed his painting with different materials on canvas and had previously shown it in a solo exhibition in Ramallah.

The importance of the artwork lies not only in that it depicts the experience of the prisoner in the absolute sense of the word, but also in that it shows him outside the confines, which his jailer drew for him. The prisoner is present in many places at the same time: in and outside prison, in virtual spaces and somewhere in-between.

Each prisoner has a story to tell in the exhibition and every unjust prison has an ethereal gate that can be crossed when “time breaks”. Space inside, outside and in-between are entangled, as illustrated by artist Munther Jawabreh in his striking work of art.

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