Marwan's Gift to the Palestinian People

Fifty years after the Nakbe, world-renowned Syrian artist Marwan Qassab-Bashi has offered 74 of his works to the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah and Birzeit University. He donated these lithographs and watercolors in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in commemoration of the Nakbe.

According to Marwan, his main objective today is to build bridges between cultures all over the world. He himself embodies this principle, as a Syrian painter living in Berlin since 1956, where he is a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts. Arab and European influences fuse in his works. Although he sometimes desires to visit Syria more often he doesn't regret his move to the West. In Marwan's opinion, someone in exile often knows his homeland better than those who remain, because the exile knows what he has lost.

Marwan's greatest source of inspiration remains the experience of Syrian nature. As a child he often went to the countryside and frequently met with peasants and Bedouin. These were among the most important experiences of his life and influenced his career profoundly.

In the works he has donated to Palestine it is it is clear that nature, in the shape of landscapes and human faces, plays an important role. Marwan's landscapes however are neither realistic nor naturalistic. Ingeniously, he processes the contours into faces, leaving the viewer unsure if the form is a face or a landscape or both. His pictures are like clouds in the sky, seeming to shift and change - to become human or topographic or architectural in form. See in them anything you like. Marwan's pictures are a guide, stimulating the viewer's eye and imagination to create what they will.

Emotion plays an important part in this process. The pictures 'eat' into the soul. Those who look on begin to feel the loneliness of human existence as they see his androgynous creatures with their big frightening faces and gloomy gaze. Eroticism, violence, and loneliness are connected in his work and together create a pathetic image of man.

Marwan once told a German Professor, Jon Merkert from the Berlin Modern Art Museum, that some of these terrifying pictures were inspired by what he had seen in Palestinian refugee camps. Some portraits of boys, which are exhibited in Birzeit University, show extremely well how alarming life can be.

Undoubtedly Marwan feels connected with the Palestinian people and their struggle. Although he couldn't be present at the opening of the exhibition - he was unsure how the Syrian government would react - he was following the event from Amman. He even sent a message to the audience in which he stated, "I feel like a Palestinian ... your shame and honor are my shame and honor." He encouraged the Palestinian people by saying: "The Nakbe will end and joy will come."

During the opening of the exhibition at Birzeit University, on 15 April 1998, Hanan Ashrawi Minister for Higher Education, was presented with one of Marwan's pictures - a personal gift from the painter. For those who also would like to have his paintings at home but were not as lucky as Ashrawi to get one for free there is a beautiful catalogue called Marwan - For the children of Palestine. The proceeds of this catalogue will benefit local children's charities because according to Marwan, the children are the future of Palestine.