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Palestinian Art Takes Center Stage at Dubai's 'On This Land' Pop-Up Exhibition

A gathering of art followers gathered in Dubai this week for the inauguration of "On This Land," a temporary exhibition honoring the history, culture, and heritage of the Palestinian people. Hosted at Concrete in Alserkal Avenue, the city's art hub, the collaborative initiative involves Sharjah’s Barjeel Art Foundation, Dubai’s Alserkal Arts Foundation, and The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, West Bank. Exhibition runs through November 26. It has more than 100 paintings and sculptures as well as large floor-to-ceiling panels that are covered in over 60 black-and-white historical photos of Gaza that were painstakingly put together in only two and a half weeks.

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, the founder of Barjeel Art Foundation, expressed his aspirations for the exhibition during an interview at the event, emphasizing its role in providing a space for contemplation on the beauty and art of Palestine. Al-Qassemi underscored the exhibition's significance as a response to the events in Gaza, contextualizing it within a longstanding commitment to Palestine by institutions in the UAE, where Palestinian art has been collected for over two decades.

The artworks on display are drawn from the extensive collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, renowned for its advocacy of modern and contemporary Arab creativity. The exhibition's title, "On This Land," is derived from a verse by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, encapsulating the sentiment that life is enriched by what this land offers.

Some of the pieces on display date back to the 1940s and are the works of well-known Palestinian artists, including Sliman Mansour, Samia Halaby, Kamal Boullata, and Mona Hatoum. But the show transcends national boundaries, including works inspired by Palestine made by artists from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. This shows how Arab artists are united in their support of Palestine.

The arrangement of the exhibit, set atop a tall metallic structure like a grid, leaves an indelible mark on onlookers. The artworks add to a complex story by examining a variety of subjects, including motherhood, resistance, politics and war, architecture, and landscapes. The exhibition's impact was demonstrated by a positive attendance of over 1,800 visitors on opening night, which included representatives of Dubai Culture, students, relatives of the artists on display, and the general public. Al-Qassemi expressed his amazement at the level of enthusiasm, pointing out that despite the short notice, people were anticipating the exhibition's opening, as evidenced by the throng of people who showed up two minutes early. 

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