44 artists interpret the poem by Mahmoud Darwish
Over 40 artists from the United States, Europe, Canada and Palestine interpret this poem by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish
in all media, with the challenge of producing a piece 6 inches x 8
inches in size. Artwork includes painting, ceramics, mosaics,
photography, drawing, metalwork, glass, sculpture, graphics and film.
interpretations range from abstract constructions of wood and paint to
hand-forged copper to portraits to digital imagery. Artists have
depicted specific lines from the poem, or used the words as inspiration
for their own exegesis.
“And we have countries without borders, like our idea
of the unknown, narrow and wide – countries whose maps
narrow to a gray tunnel as we walk in them and cry out
in their labyrinths: ‘And still we love you.’
by tossing us into the unknown. Their willows
and portrayals grow, their grasses and blue mountains.
A lake widens north of the soul. Wheat spikes
spring up south of the soul. The lemon shines like a lamp
in an emigrant’s night. Geography emits sacred texts.
And the ascending chain of hills reaches higher
and higher. The exile tells himself: ‘If I were a bird
I would burn my wings.’ The smells of autumn
become the image of one I love, soft rain seeps
into the dry heart and imagination opens to its source
and becomes reality’s terrain, the only true place.
Everything distant becomes rural and primitive,
as if the earth were still gathering itself to meet Adam
descending from his paradise. I say: These are the countries
that bear us…so when were we born?
Did Adam take two wives? Or will we be born again
to forget sin?”Mahmoud Darwish
Najwa Al Amin
Micaela Amateau Amato
Mona El Bayoumi
Najat El Khairy
Najib Joe Hakim
Andrew Ellis Johnson
Vian Shamounki Borchert
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And We Have Countries
by Mark Jenkins
The title of the exhibition, “And We Have Countries,” at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds, is taken from a poem by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. “Imagination opens to its source and becomes reality’s terrain, the only true place,” he wrote. Not all of the 44 participating artists, however, turned inward. Among the several works that depict walls and borders are Phoebe Farris’s crisp photographs of sky behind chain-link fences and John Halaka’s eloquent image of a face superimposed on a landscape, a piece that’s mounted on a nest of barbed wire. Nida Khalil’s mosaic landscape is dwarfed by its weathered, green-painted frame, which also suggests barriers.
As might be expected in a show keyed to a poem, some of the artworks, all 6 inches by 8 inches, include text that’s mostly, but not only, in Arabic. Sarra Hennigan presents Darwish’s words in Hebrew, stained with coffee and olive oil. Yet not all of the artists make direct references to the poet or his land. Andrew Courtney’s piece, a ceramic child’s face inside a box, evokes the idea of home by being made entirely of materials he found on his property in Upstate New York.
The show offers affordable pieces ($300 or less), and some of the pieces have been sold as gifts and are now represented only by a photo. That’s not altogether satisfying but is understandable.
And We Have Countries On view through Jan. 6 at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-1958.