The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

by Dina Ramadan
published in MER280

In January 2015, Christie’s announced that a painting by the Palestinian Suleiman Mansour, Camel of Burdens II (Jamal al-Mahamil), would be the highlight of its annual auction of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art held in Dubai. The piece was listed as the second version of the 1973 original, which was thought to have belonged to Muammar al-Qaddafi, the long-time Libyan dictator, and to have been destroyed in the US bombing of his Tripoli military compound in 1986. An iconic portrayal of Palestinian steadfastness (sumud) in the struggle for a homeland, it was expected to sell for somewhere between
$200,000 and $300,000.

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The Walled-Off Hotel Controversy

How Banksy Universalizes the Palestinian Struggle

by Jamil Khader | published March 22, 2017

The British street artist known as Banksy is no stranger to controversy. His public art about capitalism, misogyny and racism always produces conversation. His newest installation in occupied Bethlehem, the Walled Off Hotel, is generating significant public debate about Palestine-Israel. According to different media reports, Banksy aims to focus attention on Israel’s apartheid wall and, in the process, help inject some much needed resources into the besieged local Palestinian economy.

The Responsibilities of the Cartoonist

An Interview with Khalid Albaih

by Katy Kalemkerian , Khalid Mustafa Medani
published in MER274

Khalid Albaih is a political cartoonist “from the two countries of Sudan,” in his words, who is now based in Qatar. His drawings appear at his Facebook page, entitled Khartoon! in a play on the name of the Sudanese capital. Katy Kalemkerian and Khalid Medani spoke with him in Montreal on November 9, 2014, and conducted a follow-up interview by Skype after the January 2015 attack on the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its regular caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in degrading or humiliating poses.

Can Art Cross Borders?

Qalandiya and the Problem of Tanzir

by Kirsten Scheid
published in MER274

“We are not just talking culture and art for the sake of having a vision (lil-tanzir), holding exhibitions irrespective of who comes or doesn’t. To the contrary, we have a mission!” At the press conference in Ramallah on October 21, 2014 for the second edition of the Qalandiya International Biennale (QIB2), impassioned organizers responded to a pointed question about the role art could have in protecting Palestinian identity and overcoming Israeli oppression. The spokesperson, Jack Persekian, proclaimed that naming the biannual Palestine art event for the infamous checkpoint in the Israeli separation wall could transform the barrier into a bridge.

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From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER116

An interesting instance of the politics of culture is the “Heritage of Islam” exhibit currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington. The exhibit, which toured a number of US cities over the past year, is a project of the National Committee to Honor the Fourteenth Centennial of Islam. We had been looking forward to its arrival, and our interest was further stimulated by an article in the June 1983 issue of Smithsonian discussing some controversies that had arisen.

Orientalism in Color

by Sarah Graham-Brown
published in MER125

Mary Anne Stevens, ed., The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse -- The Allure of North Africa and the Near East (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, in association with Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, 1984).

Naji al-'Ali Remembered

by Joan Mandell
published in MER149

A ragged, barefoot boy, hands clutched behind his back, stands witness to the scene before him. The small boy in the cartoon is Naji al-‘Ali, popular cartoonist, at age 10, when he was expelled from his native Palestine to Lebanon in 1948. Naji used to say that the boy was a symbol of the Palestinian people and, more personally, of his aborted youth. “They tell little children to turn their backs, but I don’t turn. The boy is the age I was when I left Palestine, and he will not grow up until I return.”

A Makeover

Baghdad, the 2013 Arab Capital of Culture

by Nada Shabout
published in MER266

Two clouds kissed silently in the Baghdad sky. I watched them flee westward, perhaps out of shyness, leaving me alone on the bench beneath the French palm tree (so called because it stood in the courtyard in front of the French department) to wait for Areej. I looked for something worth reading in that morning’s al-Jumhuriyya, and found a good translation of a Neruda poem in the culture section, besieged on all sides by doggerel barking praises of the Party and the Revolution. The breeze nudged the palm fronds above my head to applaud. It was April, “the month of fecundity, the birth of the Baath and the Leader,” as one of the posters on the college walls announced.

Art Review: "It's Possible"

by Zeina Azzam Seikaly
published in MER159

It’s Possible, A Joint Exhibition of Palestinian and Israeli Art

“It’s Possible” is the theme of an exhibition by Palestinian and Israeli artists currently touring the United States. Twenty-four artists -- 12 Palestinians and 12 Israelis -- are displaying their works together in the first such effort outside Israel and the occupied territories. The exhibit curators are Kamal Boullata, a Palestinian artist and design editor of this magazine, and Yona Fischer, senior curator of the Israel Museum; New York-based Israeli sculptor Shulamith Koenig serves as the exhibition administrator.

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Revolutionary Posters and Cultural Signs

by Michael M.J. Fischer , Mehdi Abedi
published in MER159

All revolutions require aesthetic means for representing changes in consciousness. The French Revolution saw itself as something new and universal, and generated a rich elaboration of aesthetic categories of the sublime (storms of nature, volcanoes, earthquakes), the beautiful (island of calm, meadow after a storm) and the grotesque (metamorphoses) as vehicles for thinking about social change and the future. Most revolutions since then have seen themselves in relation to predecessor revolutions, from which they borrow tactics, organizational forms, strategies, rhetoric, symbols and graphics.