Wednesday, June 29, 2005
paula cox's palestine prints
Palestinian Wedding Dance © Paula Cox
by Susannah Tarbush
Palestinian women are in a sense the unsung heroines of the extraordinarily difficult circumstances in which the Palestinians find themselves. "Celebrating the Life of Palestinian Women", an exhibition of prints by British artist Paula Cox, pays tribute to their role. The show opened at the Kufa Gallery in West London last Wednesday and runs until 5 July.
Cox was awarded a grant by the Arts Council in spring 2004 to go to Palestine as an artist in residence. She has worked with Amnesty International since 1988 as a painter on human rights, and says her art project in Palestine "allowed me a sensitive insight into the rich but devastated Palestinian culture as I attempt to document the daily lives of women who are the innocent victims of a brutal conflict, whose most basic rights are being eroded by life under Israeli occupation."
As a woman artist she was "able to share a special intimacy with the women from a predominantly Muslim culture. I spent time in towns villages and refugee camps in the West Bank but because of the extremely volatile situation I was unable to visit Gaza."
Cox's pictures, with their eloquent fluid lines, reflect the texture of the women's lives. In some pictures women are engaged in everyday tasks such as harvesting olives and preparing bread, vine leaves and other foods. In others they talk with their friends, pray or dream.
In the caption to the colourful print "Palestinian Wedding Dance", Cox recalls how she and Fatimah bought orange, pink and white carnations to take to Fatimah's friend's wedding celebrations in Bethlehem. The groom's brother was not at the wedding; he is in an Israeli prison and has been adopted as a political prisoner by Amnesty International.
The picture "Percussion of falling olives", an assembly of three images, has as its caption a delightful poem by Cox on these "ancient ancestral trees" and "the sweet bitter smell of olives baking in the hot sun/Shovelled by beautiful strong hands/into hessian sacks, sewn up with a huge needle and string."
In "Stuffed Vine Leaves" women share their secrets as they prepare vine leaves for the Ramadan feast. "Mervat's aunt" depicts a woman from Tulkarem refugee camp bringing delicious date and sesame biscuits, and telling of her work as a volunteer in the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
In "Moment of Peace" a woman gazes out beyond a blue door. "Women sitting in their doorways in the villages and refugee camps often look malnourished by the poverty of their situation" Cox says. "I try to bring to life, with line and colour, the beauty and nobility of these strong, generous people who have had their land and human rights stolen from them."
The exhibition embarks on a tour of Palestine in October, starting in Bethlehem. Cox hopes the exhibition will be shown in Gaza, at A M Qattan Foundation's Centre for the Child. She also hopes that a tour of France, the US and some other Western countries can also be arranged.
June 28 2005