Palestinian Art at Jaffa Port

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Opening of Jaffa Salon for Palestinian Art at Jaffa Port/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

“I work with artists who are important to me, and who would like to work with me,” Ahmad Canaan, artist and curator of The Jaffa Salon for Palestinian Art, said with a smile. Following the success of the first exhibit in May 2010, the Jaffa Salon opened last night, Saturday, October 23, 2010, as a permanent gallery.  Displaying the works of several artists, both established and new, the opening exhibit revealed a diversity of styles and abundance of creative energy, presented in the spacious Warehouse 2 at Jaffa Port.

A joint project of curator Canaan, journalist and social activist Amir Neuman Ahuvia, who is producer and entrepreneur Yair Rothman, the Jaffa Salon will present Palestinian Art to a wider audience by bringing the work of artists from different regions to the cultural hub of Tel Aviv – Jaffa. All the art in the gallery are for sale, with a portion of the proceeds dedicated to funding future activities at the Canaan Art Gallery in Tamra. The gallery’s support for Palestinian artists extends beyond the financial. Canaan maintains an ongoing dialogue with many artists. “Some,” he said, “do not yet have works that are ready to exhibit. I encourage them to continue to create. I hope they will come to the exhibit and be energized. Sometimes you need a push to create.”

Perhaps a sign of the gallery’s impact can be seen in the work of Karim Abu Shakra. Abu Shakra, who exhibited two paintings in May, currently fills an entire wall with his exuberant colors.

Karim Abu Shakra/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

The tall ceilings and open space of the warehouse allow a variety of works to co-exist comfortably – oil paintings, large scale wire sculptures, acrylics, and ceramics, figurative and abstract.

Fouad Agbaria/Photo: Ayelet Dekel
Ibrahim Nubani/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

The artist’s backgrounds are as diverse as their styles. Michael Halak, studied at the University of Haifa and the Academy of Art in Florence, participated in the Men in the Sun exhibit (2009) at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, and teaches at the University of Haifa.

Michael Halak/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Halak has several paintings in the current exhibit; most prominent are two large oil portraits in which the downward look of the figure invites the viewer to reflect on her inner world.

Nada Natour/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Nada Natour dances with the clay – although involved in art, collecting traditional embroidery and craft work, objects that are unfortunately no longer created or valued as they deserve, she was not engaged in making art herself until her encounter with Parkinson’s disease led her to experiment with clay. Today, she says, “This is my life. I spend 20 hours a day with art.”

Watar Ensemble/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

One of the pleasures of opening night was the Watar Ensemble with music from their recently released album Serr. Watar means string in Arabic and the ensemble of six musicians includes: Wasim Odeh on oud, Mahran Moreb on qanoun (buzuq 1, 5, 8), Srour Saliba on violin, Hagai Blitizky on double bass, Fadi Hanna on buzuq and percussion, and Lev Elman on percussion. Four are graduates of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and their sound reflects a deep connection to classical Middle Eastern music and the surrounding contemporary music environment. All ten selections on Serr are original works, composed and arranged by Mahran Moreb and Wasim Odeh.

Their album notes describe their “joyful exploration” and “constant search for the secrets harbored by the world of music” – although “serr” means secret, happily the sound of Watar will not remain a secret for long. The group will soon launch their web site with clips and performance dates available for more joyful exploration.

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