Encounters – The Al Ma’mal Art Foundation

When we think about Palestinian art we mostly have in mind pictures of the wall, border controls or destroyed houses in Gaza… We ignore the variety works and subjects artists here treat of. Sure there are politics in Palestinian art, but it goes far beyond the typical pictures we have in mind.

The Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art is a culture centre working against a narrow minded perception of Palestinian art. Regular exhibitions, but also concerts, performances and artists residences create a rich exchange to discover and understand more subjects and ideas that artists deal with. It is a platform to promote instigate, disseminate and create art.

Open Mic Night at Al Ma’mal, 2016. Photo by Aline Khoury. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation.

After the “Jerusalem Show“, which was very political and involved local and international artist, the next group exhibition is “The Gift”. With over 40 artists it gives a huge overview of art production from Arab-Israelis, the Palestinian territories and Gaza. Landscapes, historical subjects, figurative, abstract, photography, paintings, collages, a video… You can not leave the exhibition with a fixed idea.


From up to down: Exhibition “The Gift” at Gallery Anadiel. Artwork Benji Boyadgian “Discords” series at Gallery Anadiel. Photos by Aline Khoury. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation.


Jumana Emil Abboud, video “I Feel Nothing”, 2016, Exhibition “The Gift” at Al Ma’mal. Photo by Aline Khoury. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal.
Exhibition “The Gift” 2016 at Al Ma’mal. Photo by Alice Fiedler. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal.

Also the exhibition of Bashir Quonqar gives another perception. Works resembling a city, inter-winded with animals and humans, moving. Political but not obvious at first sight. A bump of houses on a small table, the table has wheels, suggesting to be pushed away at any time… Reference to the displacement of Palestinian villages by Israeli military? The instability in which Palestinians, Arab-Israelis find themselves concerning living space till today? Or, moreover a sarcastic, colourful way to speak of the disorder in Palestinian cities?


Bashir Qonqar. Exhibition, ‘Free Fall’, 2017 at Al Ma’mal. Photos by Alice Fiedler.

The performance “I am You” of Riham Isaac can again be cause of surprise. A mix of disciplines: video projections, live music, poems and movement with which you enter into another world. A world apart and yet connected to the world we live in: Chaotic, while still beauty is to be found… Wearing a clowns nose, the artist invites us to rethink the connection we have to ourselves (the red nose referring to the child we have in us and the joy of discovering) and the connection to our surrounding (other people, nature, to consume, to day to day life…).


Riham Isaac, performance “I am You”, 2017 at Al Ma’mal. Photos by Issa Freij. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal  Foundation.

Talking with Riham, it was interesting to hear, that presenting this performance in Sweden was for her one of the first times she felt accepted as an independent artist and not looked on as poor Palestinian.

So the question arises: should we actually speak about ‘Palestinian’ and ‘non-Palestinian’ art? Can we put artists like this in boxes? Difficult. It is not possible to ignore the environment that marks us. There is a sense to speak about the artists origins. However this needn’t be a closed box. What is important is to stay open for new elements, to give them the possibility to join our perception.

In a discussion with an artist, he made a very interesting statement: You should always question yourself how to speak about a subject and which tool is the most efficient to use.

Daily facts, a situation, concrete happenings are different subjects than abstract, more global concepts. Sometimes it is more logical to speak about the subjects we choose in form of a documentary or article and not as an artwork. Now, when to do an artwork and not something else? When can the artwork have the impact we wish for? How can we transmit the message we want to tell the best?

What makes an artwork a good artwork? This question stays a big controversy.


Working with Al Ma’mal permitted me to have all these meetings and discussions and made me grow in my reflection and my view of the Art World. For this I am very grateful. Thanks a lot! All the best to the team and to all the artists I met. Stay as warm and hearty as you are.


Al Ma’mal Foundation

Video of the performance “I am You”


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