At the Seams: A Political History of Palestinian Embroidery, 2016

At the Seams is the Museum’s first international “satellite” exhibition opened on 25 May at Dar el-Nimer for Arts and Culture in Beirut, Lebanon, curated by Rachel Dedman. The exhibition, which included items from the fascinating collections of Widad Kawar and Malak al-Husseini Abdulrahim, cast a critical look at the role of embroidery in shaping historic and contemporary Palestinian politics and culture. Based on years of research and fieldwork and featuring newly-commissioned video, At the Seams is interested in the history of embroidery beyond 1948, exploring its role in nationalism, resistance and the practice of Palestinian identity today. read more

At the Seams book

Introduction to the Palestinian Museums, 2014

Concept: the Palestinian Museum is presenting its own vision of archives via the project Introduction to the Palestinian Museums. This project is a pioneering experiment whose participants include both museums inside and outside Palestine, and those that take Palestine as a subject for research. Via preliminary activities connected to development and continuity, it ultimately seeks to shed light on the museum experience in general. Specifically, it explores various aspects of museum experience in the participating museums and their special collections, placing them within their societal and cultural contexts and demonstrating the extent of their contribution to the colourful mosaic of Palestinian cultural life.

These museums (and various personal collections) serve to document, via their different spaces, collections and visions, details of the philosophy and reasoning behind their original establishment. In this project, we hope in this project to raise questions about what distinguishes these museum experiences in particular, in an attempt to trace non-linear narratives connected to the Palestinian question and Palestinian society, by shedding light on the museum as a multi-layered archive that enacts Palestine’s varied history and constantly changing geography.

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In the Presence of the Holy See, 2014

see the virtual exhibition

Concept: when Pope Francis visits the Holy Land this year, he will also be visiting Palestine, a country with a dwindling Christian population and an ongoing history of suffering caused by the occupation and conflict. These pieces were created by the Palestinian Museum to honour his excellency's visit. They reflect some of the ironies of our current situation, and the complexity of our identity as a land and a people.

The images, in many ways self-explanatory, are each made up of two works combined. In Dheisheh Camp, these works consist of prints from the UNWRA archive juxtaposed with present-day photographs of refugees; placed alongside one another, they ask how the lives of Palestinian refugees have changed or failed to change in the years following their dispossession. Exodus, exile and loss have been dominant themes of the Palestinian narrative since 1948, alongside a growing anger that the problems the country has been facing for so long remain unsolved. However, perhaps equally synonymous with Palestine are words like endurance, survival, and faith. Looked at in another way, it is these qualities, too, that the works seek to recognise.

In Manger Square, meanwhile, similarly recent photographs of the Palestinian landscape and its people are combined with Western baroque paintings of biblical scenes. Both depict some version or other of Palestine, but little else seems to connect them. The paintings interpret episodes from the life of Christ as a means of glorifying God and spreading His teachings, but the photographs glorify nothing; produced by journalists for the media, they bear witness to mundane episodes from the often uncomfortable and difficult lives of Palestinians today. The images are almost comically mismatched, expressing the extraordinary contrasts between the stories that have come from Palestine at different times in history, and the different ways in which visual art has reacted to them.

Yet we might also argue that there are deeper connections at work here. Biblical paintings are, among other things, allegories of Christian values: charity, mercy, compassion, and faith in just and loving God. There is suffering and sacrifice, but there is always the hope of eternal life. What these photographs documenting everyday life in Palestine show, however, is a conspicuous absence of Christian compassion, and hope glimpsed only in the courage and humanity of their subjects. In this sense, the incongruity of the combined images is an important reminder of hypocrisy that has often characterised the way the world deals with Palestinians. It is also possible to see in them instead of two warring narratives a single tale of tension between Christian values and the plight of many of the world’s Christians - between the sanctity of the Holy Land and the violence its people have been suffering.

This project is not a complex one: we simply wanted to use art to beautify the places the Pope is to visit without disguising the fact that these places, and the people who live in them, face oppression and hardship on a daily basis. For Palestinians of all creeds, Pope Francis’s visit is a source of joy and hope in difficult times, and the Palestinian Museum is proud and happy to welcome him to Palestine.