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Nasser Soumi, painter and installation artist

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 12.02.2008:

Nasser Soumi was born in Palestine in 1948. He studied art at the National School of Fine Arts in Damascus, Syria, from1971 to 1977, continuing his studies at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris France, from 1980 to 1982.

Soumi is a painter and primarily an installation artist. He transforms a variety of ordinary materials into works of art. His work is an assembling of “eclectic and handmade objects”. His use of the different tones of the indigo blue colour evokes the Mediterranean Sea and gives an impression of navigation and nomadic movement towards a faraway land.

He has had a number of personal exhibits, including ones in France, Italy, Poland, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, the UAE, and India. He also participated in a number of group exhibitions, notably at the Tokyo Museum, the Madrid National Museum, and the Paris Institut du Monde Arabe, in addition to shows in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Palestine, Kuwait, Morocco, and Iraq.

Soumi’s works can be found in public collections such as the Tunis Museum of Modern Art, the French National Fund for Contemporary Art, the Paris Bibliotheque Nationale, and the Baghdad National Museum. They were also purchased by the Arab Bank, the French Ministry of Culture, the Syrian Ministry of Culture, the Shouman Foundation in Jordan, and the Sharjah Museum. In 1997, Soumi won the first prize at the Cairo Biennale.

Among the artist’s most recent projects, Soumi took part in the International Symposium on Natural Dyes that took place in Hyderabad, India, in November 2006, at the initiative of UNESCO in partnership with the Crafts Council of India. The Symposium was attended by some 700 researchers, artisans, craft promoters and representatives of non-governmental organizations from 57 countries.

For this event, he created a monumental structure (20 metres in diameter and nine metres high) on which a performance took place inspired by the work of natural indigo dyers. Set to smooth and melodious music orchestrated by members of the Isha Foundation, dancers draped in indigo-dyed fabrics creatively illustrated the formation of life from the stage of a cocoon and its transformation into a celebration of the use of indigo. The combination of different shades of fabric with a hint of indigo appearing now and then to create a variety of patterns was very beautiful and kept the audience in rapt attention.

For his 1996 installation, Icon for Jaffa, Soumi presented boxes that contained a text that was entrusted to him by the expatriate citizens of that coastal city – a share of his real life, of his privacy and even of his will. Each box also contained water from Jaffa and peelings of a tangerine fitted onto an indigo background, a dye that used to be the speciality of the city. Recently, Soumi went back to Jaffa to collect testimonies of people still living in their city in order to create new boxes that will be a completion of the whole story. An installation of all the boxes will take place in March 2008 in London.

Soumi went back to Palestine in 1993, invited by the French Cultural Centre and Gallery Anadiel in East Jerusalem. As a result, he created several works of art in homage to the Palestinian cities of Akka, Tabariya, Jaffa and Nablus.

Nasser Soumi has been living and working in Paris since 1980. His works and projects could be viewed at


This Week in Palestine

February 2008

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