Sunday, September 1, 2013

ART - Telling the Story

What is art? Despite the fact that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( says the definition of art is controversial, and that it has even been debated if art can be defined, few of us have any doubt that art exists—with or without a definition. We even know that it has existed almost as long as mankind has existed, and that it involves creativity.

What is the purpose of art? Again, there are differences of opinion. Some say that art needs no purpose, that beauty itself is sufficient. Others say that artists create the art as an act of expression. They are telling the world something through their art.

Palestinian artists, more than any other group, feel compelled to include their story in their art. Even Palestinians who were born in the diaspora and Palestinian-in-laws find ways to express their feelings through their work. Or perhaps I have it the wrong way around—perhaps it is the Palestinian condition that generates the immense emotional pressures that, for some, can only be relieved through art.

The connection between intense emotion and art has been used for decades by those treating pediatric victims of trauma. The results are poignant and heart breaking. (Click this link or view below)

Whether it is a Palestinian artist who lived through the Nakba and was forever scarred by the experience, like Ismail Shammout (, often called the father of Palestinian painters, or a young vibrant artist like John Halaka ( whose work often moves into new territory, they have one thing in common: empathy for the oppressed. They also have to fight for the right to show their work. John Halaka has said that “American curators are cowards when it comes to political art.”

Art does not always express itself in paint. There are also amazing literary artists, like Lisa Majaj, whose wonderful poetry in her book, Geographies of Light, evoke more than a sense of loss, the call upon an entire culture which she uses as a foundation for her own identity. To hear her poem, “Guidelines” read and later discussed by another Palestinian American poet of note, Naomi Shihab Nye, go to 
Her book is available through Amazon at  
Novelist abound in the world of Palestinian art. Sahar Khalifeh, Susan Abulhawa, Raja Shehadeh, are just a few of the names I can pull from my limited personal experience. There are many more.

Even my own novel has earned some modest recognition.

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