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Jumana El-Husseini: Painter

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 02.11.2007:

Jumana El-Husseini is a painter and sculptor who has won many medals and has an extensive international exhibition record. She presently works and lives in Paris.

She was born in Jerusalem in 1932. She left for Beirut, Lebanon in 1948 and soon after she started to study painting, ceramics, and sculpture while majoring in political science at the American University of Beirut and the Beirut College for Women. She also studied fine arts in Paris and had her first exhibition there in 1965. El-Husseini has since had a number of solo exhibitions in most Arab countries, especially in Jordan, as well as in Japan and Italy, in addition to her native city Jerusalem.

El-Husseini’s paintings are dark and grayish and have a translucent quality. Since the Lebanese war of the 70s, her brightly coloured paintings depicting the cities of her childhood, Jaffa and Jerusalem, have become black-grayish portrayals of Beirut. El-Husseini has an interesting way of making her paintings. In the 1990s, during her travels throughout the Middle East, she filled her notebooks with notations on different written forms of the native languages she encountered. Then she took the texts and wrote them on a large monochrome oil surface and painted over them. She proceeded to repeat these steps with different writings for months until an almost metallic surface resulted which concealed thousands of years of Middle Eastern history in the form of the written languages of the native people. She is quoted as saying, “I am still painting in Jerusalem … before I was painting the houses, the people, the scenes of Jerusalem, but now I am painting what is under Jerusalem… To me it’s like the archaeologist who’s brushing layers of sand each day and what he can find from the days past, from our ancestors. So this really gives me hope…. I go back to the earth to see what we had in the past … to give me energy…. [a] feeling for living.”

El-Husseini has participated in a number of group exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale of 1979, at the Tokyo Modern Art Museum in 1988, and the Museum of Women in the Arts of Washington in 1994, in addition to others in Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Poland, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. She participated in the French-Palestinian spring exhibition at Paris’s Institut du Monde Arabe in 1996, and in the 1998 Stockholm Fine Arts Academy’s “Palestinian Art” exhibition.

The artist has also had numerous solo exhibitions around the world. Her works were exhibited at Gallery Anadiel in Jerusalem in 1993, at the Shoman Gallery in Amman, Jordan in 1990, the Argile Gallery in London in1990, and the Addison/Ripley Gallery in Washington, DC, in 1989. Other exhibitions were in Paris (1990), Moscow (1989), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (1984), Beirut (1973), Rome (1973), and Munich (1971).

Her works can be found in numerous private collections around the world.

El-Husseini received the Palestine Award for the Visual Arts in 1999. She is a member of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre’s General Assembly and resides in Paris.



November 2007

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