Naji Ali, "Fatima - 1970", Reproduction of caricature drawing, 30x42 cm, courtesy Khaled Al Ali

In the Frame of Heroism

The 1970s were considered an important stage of visual production dominated by the emergence of an iconic image of Palestinian women who in their traditional embroidered dress, became symbols of national struggle, identity and revolution. The female became the signifier of the land, steadfastness and national sacrifice, as expressed in two works, in the current exhibit by Suleiman Mansour; “Village Awakening” (1987) and “Palestine” (1978) that both date from this period. In these works, the female figure is placed centrally inside the painting space, with her distant gaze and upright stance, in a monumental frontal position. This symbolically “framed” and static image of the Palestinian woman was clearly favored by male artists despite the various active roles women were playing in national struggle, social work, education, culture and arts during that period.

This type of representation became a widespread artistic practice and for a long time, a means of political and patriotic mobilization. Even in some contemporary works such as “Two Girls from Bethlehem” (2011) by Nabil Anani we can find a continuation of this symbolism that was originally fostered in the 1970s. This iconic form of representation of the Palestinian woman as the eternal nation was so powerful that it can be found being used by Arab artists who supported the Palestinian revolution.