Art in Focus – June 2022
oil on canvas, 1988
I was balancing in an olive tree, wielding a stick, beating the branches to bring the olives bouncing down onto a large ground sheet. At lunchtime I sat with the Palestinian family round a fire and ate a delicious meal brought from home by grandma. I was helping with the harvest in a family-owned grove as part of A Taste of Palestine, a project organised by Amos Trust. Their aim was to involve supporters from the UK in the troubles of the Palestinian people. Cooking and eating together is the best way to get to know people, understand their culture and hear about their problems and concerns. It was a life changing visit.
This painting, Picking Olives, shows two people involved in just such a harvest. But there is much more to the work. It is painted by Sliman Mansour, who is an important Palestinian artist. He was part of the Liberation Art Movement and the ‘New Visions’ group of Palestinian artists in the 2000s. Mansour uses symbols derived from Palestinian life as a form of resistance. For him, orange trees represent land lost in the Nakba of 1948. His women, who wear traditional embroidered dress, stand for Palestine itself. Images of Jerusalem represent the Palestinian homeland and the dream of return. And olive trees like these represent the occupied land. There is something of Soviet-style realism here, but also something gentler, more human – a dignified resistance. In Palestine the word for this is sumud.
Art in focus is curated by Meryl Doney
This article was published in the June 2022 edition of Reform