“While I was still at primary school, the 1948 Palestinian tragedy occurred,” wrote Palestinian poet Samih al-Qassim.

“I regard that date as the date of my birth, because the first images I can remember are of the 1948 events.

“My thoughts and images spring from the number 48.”

“Art is part of the society it always reflects what happens around it,” says Palestinian artist Samia Halaby. “Painting is a visual language that influences everything. I see abstraction as an imitation of reality. It might teach you how to look if you open your eyes and wanna look some more.”

Born in 1936, Halaby moved with her family to the United States when she was 14.

“I was born in Jerusalem where all my parents and parents’ parents were born… There are places that impact you visually in that way. They enter your sensations, I can almost feel them in my hands right now…”

From the window of my small cell
I can see trees smiling at me,
Roofs filled with my people,
Windows weeping and praying for me.
From the window of my small cell
I can see your large cell.

“End of a Discussion with a Jailer,” Samih al-Qassim

Palestinian anti-imperialist uprising in Jerusalem, 1933

A blue city
Dreamt of tourists
Shopping day after day.

A dark city
Hates tourists
Scanning cafes with rifles.

“The Story of a City,” Samih al-Qassim

“A dear friend who is deeply missed and loved still. A photo of me with Mona Saudi taken by a well loved friend Inea Bushnaq. This is wealth in my heart,” Samia Halaby.

Mediterranean no. 279, 1974

“In 1951 my father and mother had come to the decision that it was safer to bring their family up in the US. I didn’t want to come… I became more an activist. We were fighting for the right to return to Palestine, to our homes, for equality, the whole new system. And that really liberated my artwork, and liberated me… I was able to see the beauty in the world…”

My city collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
Our neighbourhood collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The street collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The square collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The house collapsed
The clock was still on the wall
The wall collapsed
The clock
Ticked on

“The Clock,” Samih al-Qassim

Belal Khaled, November 22

“So there’s something remains in the memory, as I was saying about Palestine, something remains that I almost feel it with my hands, I can make it, I put it in a painting, but it’s not a photographic image, it’s what remains visually in memory is something palpable and real.”

Palestinian women in the 1940s protesting British colonialism and demanding to end the British mandate over Palestine

“What your iPhone or cellphone is telling you when you take a picture is only a teeny slice of what is in front of it when you take the picture. It’s an image of a fragment of time of reality. But a new abstraction can result from a new way of seeing…”

Movements and interruptions, 2010

Do not fill postcards with memories
Between my heart and the luxury of passion
stretches a desert where ropes of fire
blaze and smolder, where snakes
coil and recoil, swallowing blossoms
with poison and flame.

No! Don’t ask me to remember. Love’s memory
is dark, the dream clouded;
love is a lost phantom
in a wilderness night.
Friend, the night has slain the moon.
In the mirror of my heart you can find no shelter,
only my country’s disfigured face,
her face, lovely and mutilated,
her precious face …

from “Face Lost in the Wilderness,” Fadwa Touqan

“The paintings do not arise out of feeling. They arise out of thinking. And I am very scientific in the way I think and plan. But when I do them, I trust my intuitions, fulfilling every whim that comes along, balancing back and forth between what I intuit is right and what I want to do, and which one wins is hard to tell.”

Abed Zagout, November 18

“You’re only learning that what you have experienced can become language. It can be visual language embodied in this painting. So you like the painting because you recognise in it what is already in you.”

Leaves fall from time to time
But the trunk of the oak tree

“Eternity,” Samih al-Qassim

My daughter who’s not yet born and whose name is Hajirun
asked me: “Daddy, why does the earth go round?”
“Early one morning God woke up
And the angel Gabriel brought Him his morning coffee.
‘One sugar, please.’
God stirred the sugar with his gold spoon
In dull, empty circles,
Dull circles,
Dull, empty circles.
And since that time, my child,
The earth’s been rotating in its boring orbit.”

“The Boring Orbit”

How did the world revolve in this way?
Our love was young. Did it grow in this horror?
In the night of defeat, black waters
covered my land, blood on the walls
was the only bouquet.
I hallucinated: “Open your breast,
open your mother’s breast for an embrace
priceless are the offerings!”
The jungle beast was toasting in the
tavern of crime; winds of misfortune
howled in the four corners.
He was with me that day.
I didn’t realize morning
would remove him.
Our smiles cheated sorrow
as I raved: “Beloved stranger!
Why did my country become a gateway
to hell? Since when are apples bitter?
When did moonlight stop bathing orchards?
My people used to plant fields and love life
Joyfully they dipped their bread in oil
Fruits and flowers tinted the land
with magnificent hues -
will the seasons ever again
give their gifts to my people?”
Sorrow - Jerusalem’s night is silence and smoke.
They imposed curfew; now nothing beats in the
heart of the City but their bloodied heels
under which Jerusalem trembles
like a raped girl.

from “Face Lost in the Wilderness”

Belal Khaled, November 23, ‘Witness to the crime’

“Poetry continues to be distinct from prose and there is nothing more charming than musical durations as they echo within lines of differing length, and nothing more beautiful than rhymes alternating in a free verse poem, sometimes appearing distinctly, and sometimes disappearing.” from Mountainous Journey, Fadwa Tuqan

Two shadows from a balcony stared down at the City’s night.
In the corner a suitcase of clothes,
souvenirs from the Holy Land -
his blue eyes stretched like sad lakes.
He loved Jerusalem. She was his mystical lover.
On and on I ranted, “Ah, love! Why did God abandon
my country? Imprisoning light, leaving us
in seas of darkness?”
The world was a mythical dragon standing
at her gate. “Who will ever solve this mystery,
beloved, the secret of these words?”

Now twenty moons have passed,
twenty moons, and my life continues.
Your absence too continues. Only one memory remaining:
The face of my stricken country filling my heart.

“It was very strange with all the trying and trying over a period of thirty years, I couldn’t get any serious dealer to represent me in this atmosphere, and I think it’s me they object to not my work.

“My act of resistance against the propaganda and brainwashing of our time is I want it clear and obvious that I am an Arab and a lover of the Arab world and a Palestinian born in Jerusalem and it’s my city.”

Now twenty moons have passed,
twenty moons, and my life continues.
Your absence too continues. Only one memory remaining:
The face of my stricken country filling my heart.

And my life continues -
the wind merges me with my people
on the terrible road of rocks and thorns.
But behind the river, dark forests of spears
sway and swell; the roaring storm
unravels mystery, giving to dragon-silence
the power of words.
A rush and din, flame and sparks
lighting the road -
one group after another
falls embracing, in one lofty death.
The night, no matter how long, will continue
to give birth to star after star
and my life continues,
my life continues.

“I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: Home.”

from “I Belong There,” Mahmoud Darwish

Wind in the sun on earth in early winter

On the day you kill me
You’ll find in my pocket
Travel tickets
To peace,
To the fields and the rain,
To people’s conscience.
Don’t waste the tickets.

“Travel tickets,” Samih al-Qassim

“I Found It,” Fadwa Tuqan
translated by Salma Khadra Jayyusi.

I found it on a beautiful, sunny day.
I found it after great loss:
Fresh verdant soil,
Wet and flourishing.
I found it as the sun passed over palm trees
Scattering over the grassy gardens
Its golden bouquets.
It was an April generous and fertile
In seeds, warmth, and the spring sun.

I found it after great loss:
An evergreen-fresh bough
In which birds seek refuge,
So it lodges them in its protective shade.
If a violent wind crosses it someday,
Thunderous and trembling,
It bends slightly,
Twists before the wind lightly.
As the thunderstorm dies down
The limb levels out,
Its water-heavy leaves quenched of thirst;
Its pliant body did not shatter
Under the wind's hand:
The branch remains as it was.
As if its trials did not break it
It laughs, with the beauty in all that it
Sees, in the radiance of a star,
In the lightness of a breeze,
In the sun, the dew, and the clouds.

I found it on a beautiful, sunny day,
After loss, after a long search:
A lake, clear and tranquil.
If at times its pure heart
Was lapped at by the wolves of mankind,
Or the winds of fate played in the lake
And muddied it briefly,
It cleared with the clarity of a crystal
And became the moon’s face:
A pool of blueness and light
Where the guiding stars bathe.

I found it! Oh you tempest, blow
And mask the sun’s face with clouds
As you like, and you days, turn my fate
From sunny and cheerful
To sullen and gloomy;
Even then my lights do not fade
And all the darkness that has been
Extending blackly through my life,
Enfolding it night after night,
Is gone, buried in the grave of the past,
Since the day my soul found itself.

“I guess it’s cultural differences. I’m serious bro!”