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Al-Ma’rad: Reviving Jerusalem’s grand exhibitions of the early 20th century

Jerusalem24 – Based on five years of research, Al-Ma’rad exhibition is an homage to and a commemoration of the 1930s Arab National Exhibitions which took place in Jerusalem, showcasing original and new art from the Arab region.

Architect, historian, and curator of Al-Ma’rad exhibition, Nadi Abusaada, tells Jerusalem24 that the original exhibitions were regional in their scope and included the participation of artists, craftsmen, and factories from the Arab region who came to Jerusalem to exhibit their work.

Abusaada says, “In our exhibition what we’re doing is narrating the constructing and planning of these 1933 and 1934 exhibitions, and the whole timeline that speaks about their history.”

The exhibition will display the original work of the first generation of Palestinian artists who participated in Arab National Exhibitions, such as Nikolas Al-Sayegh, Zulfa Al-Saadi, Tawfiq Jawhariyeh, Issa Al-Zughbi, to name just a few.

Abusaada explains that the exhibition is divided into four rooms, each one showcasing a certain theme related to the original 1930s exhibitions. The first room highlights the original work of the artists; the second is dedicated to calligrapher artist Jamal Badran from Jerusalem, with elaborate work on Islamic art; and the third is dedicated to the coverage of exhibitions in the Arabic press at a time when there was a print culture.

Abusaada adds that the last section is dedicated to the place where the exhibitions took place, the Palace Hotel in Jerusalem, which has a long and elaborate history. According to Abusaada, the original exhibitions sought to overcome the region’s colonial fragmentation after World War I. They affirmed Jerusalem’s leading role in the cultural and economic Arab Nahda of the early twentieth century.

And now Al-Ma’rad exhibits a range of historical materials, artworks, and crafts that have been collected from archives and private collections, some of which are exhibited for the first time.

The Al-Ma’rad exhibition opened to the public on 10 August and will run till 30 November at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah.

“The fact that we were able to reach some of the original work, we thought it was necessary to exhibit it to the public,” shares Abusaada. “And we thought if we’re to do that, exhibiting them in Palestine is ultimately the best thing to do.”

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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