Show by Abstract Art Pioneer Halaby Recreate Kafr Qasem Massacre

Sixteen works of art that tells the heartbreaking historical event- the Kafr Qasim Massacre of 1956, were presented at an exhibition launched at Birzeit University Museum on February 22, 2017 by the internationally- acclaimed Palestinian artist Samia Halaby.

The artist bases her exhibition, which is open until the end of April, 2017, on the stories told by survivors, accounts they told of the families they had lost in the massacre, and all the press materials she could find.

The artist Halaby said that the she started working on this project since 1999. “I visited Kafr Qasim and listened to what the people had to say.” Halaby placed herself as an activist and advocate for her people’s cause. She views this project as a work of documentation rather than a work of art.

The contemporary abstract painting and her research of Palestinian liberation art, Halaby designed a number of posters and banners used in demonstrations across the US – which she considers as part of her activism, not her art production. 

The show will also feature the launch of a book by the same title, which was recently published by Schilt Publishing in Amsterdam (2017). The book is a summary of the research conducted by Halaby to produce this project’s drawings. It includes a collection of survivor testimonies and an attempt to reproduce an archival record of events in painting based on a number of reliable sources and references. The artist presents three recently completed acrylic paintings from her Illuminated Space series: Mountains Between; To Return, Infiltrate; and Mondrian Boogie Woogie. Critic Maymana Farahat will shed light on the artist’s three paintings and will place them within the latter’s broader experience in painting and art history.

The Vice President for Community Affairs Asem Khalil said in his opening remarks said that this exhibition is an important opportunity for the students to be introduced and for them to discuss the notion of identity, get reflections from the Palestinian history and memory in a contemporary, artistic and cultural way.

Previously on the same day, Halaby met with the Birzeit University President Abdullatif Abuhijleh, where she presented a collection of her work to the University. Halaby believes that art should be an open source of knowledge for students and the masses in general.

Samia Halaby was born in Jerusalem. She is a leading figure of abstract art practice and stands among the most influential Palestinian artists today. Despite being based in the United States since 1951, Halaby is considered a pioneer of abstract art in the Arab world.