Israel-Gaza war brutalities form fabric of Sharjah's March Meeting

Art foundation's annual event will explore ways creatives have responded to the bloodshed

At this year's March Meeting, Mosab Abu Toha, left, will be reciting his works as well as those written by his peers. AFP
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Since its inception in 2008, Sharjah Art Foundation’s March Meeting has sought to provide a platform for regional academics, artists and experts to discuss the significance of artmaking and community building, especially in the face of pressing regional issues.

Running until Sunday at Khalid bin Mohammed School in Al Manakh, the theme for this year’s event is Tawashujat. The Arabic word refers to entwining or bringing together ideas. It aims to encapsulate the focus of the meeting’s programme this year, namely in collaborating to pave the way for an equitable and sustainable future.

The meeting explores the role of art practitioners in today’s context, considering the disparate issues and events shaping the region and the globe.

The Israel-Gaza war, now nearing its fifth month, will be a major topic of conversation and exploration. More than 30,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the Israeli onslaught, including 12,000 children. The March Meeting will explore ways artists have responded to the harrowing events and how the arts can reveal the layered implications of the conflict.

Here are four sessions and performances relating to the war.

Poems Under the Rubble

Mosab Abu Toha will be reciting his works in Poems Under the Rubble. A poet and librarian from Gaza, Abu Toha is best known for Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear, a 2022 poem collection that won the Palestine Book Award as well as the American Book Award. Abu Toha’s poems reveal the struggles of living within a besieged Gaza. He will also be reciting the works of fellow Palestinian poets, including Refaat Alareer, who was killed in December in an Israeli airstrike.

Poems Under the Rubble takes place on Friday at 7pm

Not Food

Not Food is a performative dinner that highlights the links between communal dining and the act of mourning. Presented by Shayma Hamad, a Ramallah-born artist, lawyer and founder of the project Food in Law, the performance will involve kneading and making dough, corresponding the act to the process of digging a grave for a loved one. Stories collected from women who have had to bury their loved ones themselves will be shared in the process.

As the foundation describes it: “Not Food reveals how food becomes a means for prayer and wishing.”

The performance, by invitation only, takes place on Friday at 7.30pm

New Visions Case Study: Art as an Act of Change and Resistance

Vera Tamari, Sliman Mansour, Nabil Anani and Tayseer Barakat have been at the forefront of the arts scene in Palestine. They were considered pioneers in shaping the visual core of Palestinian resistance art in the 1970s and continue their mission today.

They will discuss how they founded New Visions in 1988 after the first Intifada. The initiative is dedicated to producing art that contributes to national struggles while staying true to the styles of individual artists.

New Visions Case Study takes place on Saturday at noon

Measuring the Distance Between Individual Efforts and Collective Echoes

While institutional movements are pivotal for backing support for the Palestine cause, private cultural efforts also have an important role to play.

As Faisal Saleh, founder of Palestine Museum US, told The National in January: “You just have to exist as a Palestinian and that's half the game. You don't have to do anything, just be a Palestinian and have people recognise you as a Palestinian, that's really important."

Measuring the Distance Between Individual Efforts and Collective Echoes is a session that will reflect on private efforts to develop and sustain the Palestinian cultural fabric. The session will feature Samir Joubran of Le Trio Joubran and Samer Jaradat of the independent Ramallah record label Jafra Productions. They will be in conversation with Hasan Hujairi, music department manager at the Sharjah Art Foundation.

The session takes place on Saturday at 5.30pm

Sharjah Art Foundation's March Meeting runs until Sunday; more information is available at sharjahart.org

Updated: March 01, 2024, 10:06 AM