When Art is your Refuge—the View from Palestine

By

Fatina Odeh

As a Palestinian Muslim woman with a head covering who was born and raised in Israel, I had many questions about my identity. My art is my refuge, a place where I can express the depths of my mind and the storms of my thoughts and feelings. In the art I create, I raise questions of identity, tracing forgotten childhood memories, or seeking the closeness of Allah.

Who Are We?

“Who are we?” is a self-portrait in which I am depicted with a hijab and the traditional Palestinian outfit. The Palestinian and the Israeli flags seperated with  a kufiyah are displayed in the background. My hand hides half of my face with (مين احنا؟)Who are we?  written in Arabic . The Palestinian garment I am wearing symbolizes my identity as a Palestinian and my family history. The background symbolizes the storm of thoughts and the identity crisis I am forced to face. The Israeli flag symbolizes the occupier. The Palestinian flag symbolizes Palestine on all its good and bad levels—the Palestinian people and the corrupt leadership who abandoned the the Palestinian issue and decided to focus on their personal interests. It also symbolizesthe lost youth who decides to carry out suicide bombings with the aim of liberating Palestine and finding redemption, but end up meeting death. The Palestinian kufiyah my grandfather, the simple Palestinian farmer, who just wants to live in peace and provide for his family with dignity. 

My Kababir:

In Kababiri or my Kababir, I  present the unique landscape of my special neighborhood. Kababir is a  small village located on the western side of the Carmel Mountains. Before 1948, the year in which Palestine was conquered, and the State of Israel was established, my neighborhood was a village on the outskirts of Haifa. After the occupation and over the years, the city of Haifa grew and developed and ended up surrounding my village. My village became countryside in the middle of a growing city and retained its rural identity. . This is what sets the place apart, a village within a city. 


Amazed:

Through the calligraphy I do I get closer to the Arab and the Muslim in me. My calligraphy is in Arabic even though I speak several other languages. Growing up as a Muslim Arab in Israel was challenging. No one wants to be different, everyone wants to own the controlling group. In the beginning, I did not like being an Arab. But when I grew up, I realized the uniqueness of it. The verses of the Quran showed me the beauty of the Arabic language. Language is identity and culture and I needed to be proud of my language, my identity and my culture.

In the work, “Amazed”  I have written a poem by my favorite philosopher and Sufi Poet, Monsour Al Hallaj who dived deep until he announced a major shift in the history of Sufi thought, describing his relationship with God. The words say:

Amazed by you and by me, O you, the desire of the desirers

You drew me closer to thee, until I thought that you were me

I vanished in ecstasy until you erased me from myself by thee 

O my blessing in life and my rest after death

I have no intimacy with anyone but thee

When I’m afraid or in safety

O you, the gardens of meanings that surround all my art

If I want anything, it’s you, my utmost desire


My art is my journey towards my identity and my work symbolizes each landmark I land on. 

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Fatina is a Palestinian Muslim Artist, Curator and Psychologist from Kababir, Israel. Follow her on Instagram @Fatina_Odeh


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