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Palestinian Art: Overview of Palestinian Art & History

About Palestinian Art

The roots of Palestinian visual art can be traced back to pre-Islamic times when Byzantine pictorial iconography, with its two-dimensional patterns, was the dominant influence in Palestine. It reemerged after the influx of Christian monks in the nineteenth century. After 634 AD, with the advent of Islam and a Muslim majority in the area, Islamic traditions played a key role in Palestinian art from which the main conventions of today's art are derived.

1967 to Present

Palestinian artists were reinvigorated after the "Six-Day War" in 1967 and the subsequent Israeli occupation. The Palestine Liberation Organization created the Union of Artists for Palestinians in the Diaspora, while artists in the Occupied Territories formed the League of Palestinian Artists. Art took on more urgent political meaning, featuring images of resistance and reaffirming Palestinian culture. Attending exhibitions in the Occupied Territories became an act of defiance to occupation and a celebration of identity. In response, in 1980, Israel banned art exhibitions and paintings of "political significance." The grouping of the four colors of the Palestinian flag in any one painting was also forbidden.

Despite these restrictions, artists in the Diaspora, Israel, and the Occupied Territories prolifically produced art and held exhibitions, conferences and seminars. During this time, many prominent artists emerged, including Kamal Boullata with his novel use of calligraphy and geometric shapes, and Samira Badran, whose apocalyptic images critique the occupation. Suleiman Mansour, known for his use of metaphors, most famously Camels of Hardship depicting an old porter carrying Jerusalem on his back, led the New Vision movement after the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987. The movement boycotted Israeli supplies and instead used materials found locally, such as dyes, leather, wood, sand and clay.

Surrealism and abstraction began to be used more by Palestinian artists, often searching for a new way to express life under occupation while broadening their discipline. Installations, multimedia works, and photography have been utilized more frequently by artists, though painting remains the favored medium.

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Palestine Chronology

1897        First Zionist Congress

1917        Balfour Declaration

1929-36   Arab Discontent

1947        UN Partition of Palestine

1948        Establishment of Israel

1964        Formation of the PLO

1967        The 1967 War

1973        The Yom Kippur War

1974        Arafat's First UN Appearance

1977        Israel's Resurgent Right Wing

1979        Israel and Egypt Make Peace

1982        Israel Invades Lebanon

1987        Palestinian Intifada

1988        PLO Opens Door to Peace

1991        Madrid Summit

1993        The Oslo Peace Process

1994        Palestinian Authority

1995        Oslo II & Rabin Assassinated

1996-99   Deadlock

2000        Second Intifada

2001        Sharon Returns

2002        West Bank Re-Occupied

2003        Road Map Hopes

2004        Arafat Dies

2005        Gaza Pull-Out

2006        Hamas Wins Palestine Elections

2007        Hamas & Fatah Form Unity Govt.

2008        Cease-fire Ends 
2009        Israel Invades Gaza
2010       Israel Attacks Gaza Aid Ship
2011       Palestine wins UNESCO
                membership/UN vote on
                statehood delayed
2012      Over 130 countries voted
                to upgrade Palestine to a
                nonmember observer
                state of the U.N.
2013       Israelis and Palestinians
                officially begin peace talks,
                 their third attempt since 2000
2014       Israel launches a ground
                offensive into Gaza.
*For more updates please visit The Institute for Palestine Studies - The Palestine Chronology 

Palestine Chronology

2015        The Vatican Recognizes State                      of Palestine in New Treaty

2016       US Abstains on UN                                          Resolution Condemning                                 Israeli Settlements; Motion Passes

2017       Trump Recognizes Jerusalem                        as Israel's Capital, Orders                        US Embassy to Move

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Millicent Fullmer
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5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-2336

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