The new general director, Mahmoud Hawari: this museum will cross the political and geographic borders and will connect all the Palestinians, in Palestine and in exile
by Oliva Vecellio
Birzeit, 18th May 2016, Nena News – Last Monday 3rd of May, Mahmoud Hawari was appointed new Director General of the Palestinian Museum by Taawon-Welfare Association, main founder and promoter of this project. Currently Lead Curator at the British Museum and Research Associate at the Khalili Research Centre at the University of Oxford, Mr. Hawari is a specialist in Islamic art, architecture and archaeology of the pre-modern Middle East, and an expert in cultural heritage management, museology and Palestinian cultural heritage.
He will confront with a big challenge: develop the Palestinian Museum into a reference institution not only concerning Palestinian culture – through research, exhibitions, educational programms and collections – but also for museology in general, as the idea is to consolidate a new paradigm for museums, to offer Palestinians and the world a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary platform where complex perspectives are offered on a complex reality, approaching both collective and individual issues.
This is one the main aims according to Omar Al-Qattan, chair of the Palestinian Museum Taskforce, that accorded us an interview: “I’m very proud that the main Museum building is completed in due time and that the inauguration will take place on the 18th of May, just few days after the Nakba anniversary, when over 750,000 Palestinians were fled or expelled from homeland at the creation of the State of Israel. Indeed another main aim of ours is that the museum becomes a catalyst and facilitator for Palestinians at home and in exile, wherever they live, to tell their story and express their attachment to homeland. An agent of empowerment and a synthetic hub for creation and creativity”.
This 28 million dollars museum is an impressive energy-efficient green building with a silver-rated LEED certification. Its stones and glass facades are inspired by the terrace landscape, into which it blends, flanked with series of long walks and gardens with olive trees and fragrant herbs native to Palestine. Designed by Heneghan Peng, an award-winning firm based in Dublin selected through an international competition, the structure insists on 40.000 mq of land 23 kilometres north of Jerusalem in Palestinian Occupied Territories, leased by Bir Zeit university, that will be one of the main partners as research is one of the core businesses of the team. Many other local and international partnerships are in progress, in particular to find institutions abroad that can host exhibitions or part of the permanent collection in order to safely store donations and acquisitions abroad, preventing eventual confiscations from Israel.
Mr Al-Qattan makes it clear: “Palestine is not a sovereign country. If you consider the political situation and the geographical fragmentation of Palestine, no wonder that we’re inaugurating an empty space and that we will need time, patience and a lot of work to eventually build a significant permanent collection. But we need to start. Indeed our first exhibition will be outside of Palestine, as part of our strategy to create a network – a mother ship in Palestine (the main museum building) with many satellites programmes and spaces linked to that mother ship”.
“At the Seams: a Political History of Palestinian Embrodery”
Beirut will host At the Seams: a Political History of Palestinian Embroidery (Dar El-Nimer cultural space, 25 may – 30 july 2016), a “satellite” exhibition curated by Rachel Dedman that explores not only the historical importance before 1948, but also the dynamic transformations embroidery has undergone in the decades since, up to late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Key elements of the research concern the homogenisation of the thobe both pre- and post-1948; embroidery and the fashioning of a modern Palestinian woman in 1960s Beirut; the use of embroidery as a touchstone for a romanticised historical Palestine by liberation artists or as a form of resistance; the Intifada Dress’s rendering of women’s bodies as sites of active political agency and the conceptual contemporary forms of embroidery, advanced by young Palestinian artists and designers today.
Pictures Audiovisual Archive
The Palestinian Museum will launch other two flagship projects during 2016: its audiovisual digital archive and “Palestinian Journeys”, an interactive timeline from 1850 to the modern day developed in collaboration with the Institute of Palestine Studies and the design studio Visualising Palestine. The timeline will be available online and within the Museum’s building in Birzeit in both Arabic and English, and will present a critical but colourful array of Palestinian narratives.
The museum digital collections and online platforms, alongside its network of local and international partnerships, will allow for the sharing of skills, resources, programmes and exhibitions with individuals and institutions worldwide, despite the severe restrictions placed by the Israeli occupying forces on the movement of Palestinians between their towns and villages, most notably the Separation Wall and numerous checkpoints. Nena News