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"The Horse Fell off the Poem," Palestinian Artist Malak Mattar's Controversial Exhibition at the Venice Biennale

This week, the focal point of the art world shifts to Venice as the city prepares to kick off the 60th edition of its renowned biennale on April 20. Amidst the buzz, Palestinian artist Malak Mattar will unveil her small exhibition, shining a spotlight on the ongoing turmoil in her hometown of Gaza to a global audience.

For Mattar, whose family recently found refuge in Egypt, the weight of the crisis still looms large. Reflecting on the past six months, she describes them as a harrowing ordeal, emphasizing how people have grown indifferent to the prolonged suffering in Gaza.

Although not her first showcase in Italy, Mattar views her exhibition at Venice's Ferruzzi Gallery during the biennale as a major turning point in her evolving career. This opportunity arose coincidentally following a chance encounter with Dyala Nusseibeh, director of Abu Dhabi Art, who proposed the idea after seeing Mattar's work in London.

Titled "The Horse Fell off the Poem," Mattar's exhibition pays homage to the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and features striking imagery portraying the plight of victims. Renaming her centerpiece painting "No Words," Mattar confronts viewers with stark depictions of chaos and loss, drawing parallels between Gaza's resilience and the strength of a horse.

Mattar believes that her works are being shown at a time when freedom of expression about Palestine is limited.

Acknowledging the potential controversy her works may incite, Mattar remains steadfast in her belief that art should evoke positive or negative reactions. With the current biennale theme being "Foreigners Everywhere," Mattar's work aligns with the event's tradition of tackling socio-political issues head-on.

Yet, Mattar is acutely aware of the challenges Palestinian artists face in expressing themselves freely, citing recent incidents of censorship and backlash within the art world. Despite these obstacles, she sees her exhibition as a crucial platform to shed light on the ongoing atrocities in Gaza and challenge prevailing perceptions.

Palestinian painter Malak Mattar hopes to shed light on the atrocities unfolding in her native city of Gaza. 

As she prepares to unveil her powerful creations, Mattar remains resolute in her mission to defy constraints and amplify the voices of those silenced by conflict. In a world where freedom of expression is often curtailed, her art stands as a testament to the enduring power of creative resistance.

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