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Sparkling Cities by Inass Yassin
SLIMAN MANSOUR: LIMITED EDITION
12 AUGUST - 30 DECEMBER 2023 RAMALLAH
This exhibition celebrates the art of Sliman Mansour, spanning over half a century and narrating a story of Palestinian resilience and a deep connection to the Palestinian identity and the land.
The selected artworks focus on several themes central to Mansour’s art, including Jerusalem, Palestinian women, and the landscape – which can be found abundantly in his works in the form of olive trees, harvest scenes, orange picking, and Palestinian villages. The exhibition also includes artworks produced in the past few years that explore the present through the lens of the past, highlighting the Palestinian cause amidst the transformations of modern life and emphasizing the paradoxes between the two time periods.
Among the featured artworks is the well-known Camel of Hardship (1973), produced early in Mansour’s artistic career. Another lesser-known twin painting titled The Daughter of Jerusalem (1978) is also on show. It depicts a young woman dressed in traditional Palestinian dress carrying the same burden as the old man in Camel of Hardship but with a strong uplifted posture. Despite the similarity in concept and time of production, this painting did not garner the same attention.
Throughout the exhibition, Palestinian women appear in various contexts, all intrinsically tied to the land. At times, they embrace Jerusalem, while in other instances, they carry the city on their heads or the city appears in the background. These women exude a strong and striking presence, with a sense of unwavering dignity and abundant emotions.
The connection to the land is portrayed through several rural scenes in Mansour’s artworks, where women take center stage. For example, one painting shows a woman holding a straw basket full of pomegranates; another features two women carrying oranges from the orchards. In another artwork, a woman embraces a tree that has shed its leaves in a real or perhaps metaphorical winter.
All the women in Mansour’s paintings wear embroidered Palestinian dresses, each with different designs and colors. The details show the time, research, and effort invested by the artist in celebrating the diversity in traditional dresses and embroidery.
The Palestinian cause is never absent from Mansour’s works; it is always a foundational theme, even if not explicitly displayed. Sometimes, it is metaphorically presented through barren land, deserts, and the expressive eyes of his characters. In one painting, a woman walks determinedly through a barren desert and holds a Palestinian flag on a disproportionately long mast. In another artwork titled Rituals under Occupation (1989), a majestic funeral procession is led by a large crowd carrying the coffin of a martyr draped in the Palestinian flag, resembling a cross reminiscent of Christ’s crucifixion.
Some of the relatively recent artworks focus on contradictions between the focal characters in the artworks and their contexts. Among these works is a painting of a woman walking amidst the crowded streets of a city resembling New York, with its towering buildings and traffic. She wears a Palestinian dress and carries oranges in her hands. The scene portrays a significant contrast between the character and the context as if the woman has just left her village and found herself in America.
Born in 1947 in the town of Birzeit, Palestine, Mansour is a pioneer artist and one of the founders of the Palestinian art movement. Throughout the years, his paintings profoundly reflected the Palestinian heritage and struggle. This special exhibition celebrates Mansour’s art and the enduring spirit of his artworks dedicated to Palestine.