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Exhibition review Outstanding Palestinian art

JAN WOOLF urges you to visit a courageous and unusual exhibition of work that depicts the Palestinian diaspora

When The Grapes Were Sour
P21 Gallery, London

THIS fantastic exhibition of black-and-white photographic portraits of Palestinians — some young, some elderly — have been printed onto canvas, the margins of which have been dipped into coffee as burnish. 

The artist, Rasha Al Jundi, has then embroidered traditional Palestinian motifs into them (no face is obscured) carefully chosen to suit the sitter and their circumstances. 

Each one is an individual of the Palestinian diaspora, as is Rashan Al Jundi who lives in Nairobi. 

The exhibition is beautifully hung with twine and clothes pegs and spaced so that the back of one work gives information for the two either side. Hence this exhibition can use the middle of the room as well as the walls. The pretentious might call it an installation. 

But it’s beautiful. 

Black-and-white portraiture with the ravishing colour of the embroidery, like floral tributes. Each has their own story. The artist’s mother, father and sister are here.

Her mother, photographed in 2022 aged 74, is quoted as saying: “It is the most beautiful country in the world … the view from Al Karmel mountain … you go up and see the port of Haifa … and Jaffa … The moment you step into Beit Dajan you can smell the oranges and lemons … the cleanliness of the sea … my homeland is my birthplace and more precious than my soul.”   

The embroidered motif chosen for her is Roses from Beit Dajan. 

Everyone’s connection to their mother country is profound, unlike the shallow identity politics pronounced so shrilly by Western powers who might call this exhibition anti-semitic, or arts organisations who wouldn’t fund it in case that’s what they’re accused of.   

Yes, identity and belonging is all the rage right now — unless you’re Palestinian.  

The exhibition is at P21 gallery in Chalton Street London. And it’s only on until Saturday 15 — so get down there if you can. 

Runs until June 15. For more information see: p21.gallery.

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