The “On This Land” exhibition emerged from the original plans of the Palestinian Museum, based in Birzeit, which aimed to explore the cultural legacy of Gaza in an upcoming exhibition. However, given the current situation and the uncertain future of the exhibition, collaboration has become a crucial antidote. In a remarkable display of synergy, the Palestinian Museum, the Barjeel Art Foundation, and the Alserkal Arts Foundation joined forces, bringing “On This Land” to fruition within a mere two weeks.
This impromptu convergence of modern and contemporary art, alongside photographic archives, serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it seeks to establish a contemplative space where visitors can engage with an unexpected view of Gaza, encouraging them to envision a potential future by delving into a palpable past. Secondly, “On This Land” leverages the strength of spontaneous collaboration not only to preserve what might be suppressed but also to generate a multifaceted and intensified response.
Amidst the current deadlock, this initiative is a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of cultural institutions. By swiftly adapting and collaborating across borders, these foundations are not only ensuring the preservation of cultural narratives but also amplifying them in a triangulated manner. The urgency of the project underscores the commitment to breaking the silence and fostering a collective response.
In poetic resonance, the opening line, ‘We have on this land that which makes life worth living,’ draws from a Darwish poem—a sentiment familiar to those acquainted with this terrain. “On This Land” stands as a powerful testament to the potential of collaborative efforts in overcoming challenges and giving voice to silenced narratives, ensuring that the richness of life and culture perseveres even in the face of uncertainty.
To our land,
and it is the one near the word of god,
a ceiling of clouds
To our land,
and it is the one far from the adjectives of nouns, the map of absence
To our land,
and it is the one tiny as a sesame seed,
a heavenly horizon … and a hidden chasm
To our land,
and it is the one poor as a grouse’s wings,
holy books … and an identity wound
To our land,
and it is the one surrounded with torn hills,
the ambush of a new past
To our land, and it is a prize of war,
the freedom to die from longing and burning and our land, in its bloodied night,
is a jewel that glimmers for the far upon the far and illuminates what’s outside it …
As for us, inside,
we suffocate more!
Mahmoud Darwish, “To Our Land” from The Butterfly’s Burden
Copyright © 2008 by Mahmoud Darwish, English translation by Fady Joudah
About Palestine Museum Digital Archive
The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, housing 68 photographs of Gaza, stems from 17 collections within a repository of over 400. Launched to safeguard endangered documents, it includes a plethora of materials such as identification papers, letters, films, and maps. Accessible in Arabic and English, the Archive serves as a comprehensive resource for understanding Palestinian life, history, and legacy. Emphasising a history-from-below perspective, it spotlights the overlooked narratives of average Palestinians. Beyond preservation, the project fosters a culture of digital archiving, forming institutional relations, partnerships, and collaborations. In its upcoming third phase, the Archive aims to broaden its geographical reach and partnerships.
About Barjeel Art Foundation
Established in 2010 by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah oversees a diverse collection of over 1,200 Modern and Contemporary Art pieces from North Africa and West Asia. The foundation promotes critical dialogue on global stages, emphasising artists with Arab heritage. With 40 exhibitions held internationally, including cities like Paris, London, New York, and Tehran, Barjeel fosters open-ended inquiry into Arab histories. Collaborations like ‘The Sea Suspended’ in Tehran and ‘Taking Shape’ at the Grey Art Gallery, NYU, demonstrate its global impact. With over 130 loans to institutions globally, Barjeel ensures broad access to Arab art.
About Alserkal Arts Foundation
Alserkal Arts Foundation, an independent non-profit, fosters new knowledge through research support and cultural production. Commissioning artistic projects, conceptualsing exhibitions, and championing alternative learning, the foundation offers cross-disciplinary, research-led residencies for researchers, writers, and artists. Research Grants are awarded to disrupt conventional models. Embracing responsive, context-specific programming, it bridges disciplines, creating spaces for critical reflection and production. Regionally aligned in the MEASA region and outward-looking, it’s part of Dubai’s Alserkal, a socially responsible cultural enterprise, supported by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal, and the Alserkal family.
Location: Concrete, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
Dates: 20 – 26 November, 2023