The raw material common to all works displayed in this exhibition is tar – which connotes dirt, the street, asphalt, the beach’s sticky aftermath. This crude and violent anti-matter is constantly reshaped, etched on the paper surface to form abstract images, at once tender and intense. Tar’s black color and its tainting quality usurp our power to automatically identify the material as it is soaked and absorbed into the paper, much like a hidden text begging to be considered “natural”. The tar is also sprayed into two porcelain cups, taking on the appearance of smooth remains pf black coffee, covered by golden leaves. The cups are framed by a display window – a silent witness to the lightning emptying of the houses by their Palestinians owners, and to the texture of the homes they left behind. The exhibition’s specific installation within the space of a Palestinian home in Jaffa/Yaffa’s Ajami Neighborhood ties it irrevocably to the events of 1948.
The exhibition is a natural sequel to a series of works produced by the artist during years devoted to Jaffa/Yaffa and other Palestinian cities through performative journeys of territorial signification. The fact that unlike most of the Palestinians who lived here before 1948, the artist’s family was not uprooted from its home in Acre/‛Akka turns the present act of signification into one which manages to free itself of the shackles of physical pain and the immediacy of deportation and diaspora, thereby enabling us to reflect on the metaphysics of human existence, and Palestinian existence in particular.
The name chosen for the exhibition – Hands Weaving Fire – is borrowed from the title of a series created as a tribute to the artist’s father, Mahmoud, who used to manage a steel factory by day and weave fishing nets by night. Using hands as a synecdoche of the father figure intensifies the act of signification within the house’s physical area through the father’s symbolic return into the space occupied in the Nakba. The fact that the first name Mahmoud is one of the most common in Muslim Arab society makes a much broader national loss and absence tangibly present. In that, the exhibition offers the viewer a gaze that enables an acknowledgement of history through the presence of the absent former home in today’s physical house.
The exhibition was presented in a house on 11 Simtat Maanit street in Jaffa as part of the Houses beyond the Hyphen project taking place in Jaffa-Yaffa between May 14 and 16.
Curator: Debby Farber