Fruits, like ethereal threads, weave together ancestral longing, bridging us home, anchoring us to the sustenance soil of Falasteen.
Double Blessings traverses the landscapes of four artists with rooted connections to Palestine - Fadl Fakhouri (Oakland/Khalil), Besan Khamis(Baltimore/Nazareth), Amena Sheikh(Cincinnati/Gaza), and Mohammed Tayyeb(Los Angeles/Khalil). Each string a narrative of consumption, lineage, resistance, and storytelling, using food as their common yet diverse language.
Understood on one level, consumption is an act of identity affirmation, a way for Palestinians to maintain a sense of home, tradition, and self amidst the currents of displacement and cultural erasure. Each food, imbued with memories of homeland and familial bonds, serves as a vessel for preserving cultural heritage.
However, the theme of feeding is also framed against the backdrop of restriction and deprivation. The apartheid’s constraints on Palestine have restricted access to essential resources, including food. These limitations resonate in the artworks as poignant commentaries on the realities of the Palestinian condition and our experiences of not living in Palestine. The depicted fruits - watermelons, oranges, lemons, sabar - become symbols of what was once readily available, provided by the land, and yet often denied and restricted, accentuating the realities Palestinians face.
The act of eating, therefore, transforms into an act of resistance. It underscores the Palestinian spirit of resilience in the face of adversity, signifying an enduring connection to our homeland and a refusal to let go of our cultural identity despite systemic constraints. Each bite is not just a taste of home but also a taste of defiance, a testament to the spirit of survival and the will to hold on to their roots.
Navigating the spaces between consumption and restriction, the works in Double Blessings bring a multilayered narrative of culture, identity, and resilience. Amena Sheikh’s photographs, infused with traditional Palestinian embroidery, become visual narratives that delve into the complexities of navigating the diaspora. Fruit motifs and expressive hands symbolize a hidden secret shared between the viewer and the opened fruit, bridging family, perseverance, and storytelling. Paintings and sculptures by Besan Khamis are a continuation of traditions regarding physical connections to the soil of Palestine, celebrating the beauty native to our land and geography. Mohammed Tayyeb, inspired by the resistance and resilience of his communities, creates multifunctional multi-woven graphics filled with longing and nourishment. He breaks down ancestral patterns and trauma while celebrating existence and striving for liberation. By blending their wisdom with that of these communities, Tayyeb aims to challenge alienation and reclaim his rightful place. Ending with Fadl Fakhouri’s works, they explore the complexity of nourishment and the violence inherent in life. Through videos and sculpture, Fakhouri creates a commentary on life's intrinsic aggression and potential for disruption.
In Double Blessings, shared histories of resistance and resilience intertwine, layering personal and communal experiences often omitted or simplified in mainstream narratives. These four artists craft a language of memory and persistence that transcends boundaries of time and geography, claiming new moments, moments in a free Palestine.
Double Blessings is organized by 2023 CONNECT Curator-in-residence Noel Maghathe, an independent curator and artist. The exhibition is produced by Roots & Culture Contemporary Arts Center.
Double Blessings is supported by The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and generous grants from The Reva & David Logan Foundation and Builder’s Initiative.