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Samia Halaby


Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre: An Introduction to the Ongoing Project

[Samia Halaby,

When I first accepted the challenge of drawing the Kafr Qasem massacre, I wanted to represent its events as though I were a camera on site. Documentary drawings, I thought, could recreate what photography might have given us if done on a historical basis. I would learn all I could and present the specific individuals and the documented events. I worked on the project in three major periods, each occupying most of a year or several years. I began work in 1999 and continued ...

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Mustafa al-Hallaj: Master of the Print and Master of Ceremonies

[Cropped image of Mustafa al-Hallaj's

Deep in thought while in transit at Amman’s international airport in 1979, I missed my flight to Beirut. Fortunately a competing airline had a plane thirty minutes later. My waiting friends met me in frenzy; it was revolutionary Beirut and although they had cause to worry their anxiety soon turned to glee when they informed me that our car was entering the liberated zone. Fresh from the laziness and loneliness of the Midwestern United States, in Lebanon’s capital I ...

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Abed Abdi and the Liberation Art of Palestine

[Detail of Abed Abdi's

Palestinian artists of the second half of the twentieth century, when interviewed, sometimes speak of being the first to do this or that, or that theirs was the first Palestinian one-artist exhibition, etc. The trauma of the Nakba caused an absence in knowledge. Closer study reveals that, despite this perceived chasm in the continuity of Palestinian painting and sculpture, there were precious connections between the two halves of the twentieth century in Palestinian art ...

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Homage to Leonardo

[Detail of Samia Halaby

Leonardo Da Vinci first impressed me when one of my art history professors, while earning my MFA at Indiana University in 1963, described a certain spot in the room of “The Last Supper” as the ideal place for a viewer to stand. He explained that this was Leonardo’s visualization of the Renaissance concept of man as the center. This room at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan had not been intended as the monk’s dining hall but was converted to this purpose later, as it was ...

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On the Exhibition THIS IS also GAZA

[Abdelraouf Alajouri. Image copyright the artist.]

 To write this commentary, I draw on my knowledge as historian of twentieth-century Palestinian painting as well as my own experiences with some of these artists when I co-curated Al Jisser Group’s exhibition in New York, “Williamsburg Bridges Palestine.” Additionally, I have a little experience visiting Gaza and communicating with artists there. On one of my visits acting as consultant, I brought the director of the Station Museum in Houston to Gaza as part of the ...

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Samia Halaby


Born in Jerusalem in 1936, Samia Halaby is a leading abstract painter and an influential scholar of Palestinian art. Recognized as a pioneer of contemporary abstraction in the Arab world, although based in the United States since 1951, she has exhibited throughout the region and abroad, and is widely collected by international institutions, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art (New York and Abu Dhabi), the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Art Institute of Chicago, Institute du Monde Arab, the British Museum, and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Halaby was the first fulltime female associate professor at the Yale School of Art, a position she held for nearly a decade, during the initial part of her career when she taught at universities across the United States. 

Her writings on art have appeared in Leonardo: Journal of Arts, Sciences and Technology and Arab Studies Quarterly, among others, while her independently published survey Liberation Art of Palestine: Palestinian Paintings and Sculpture in the Second Half of the 20th Century (2002) is considered a seminal text of Palestinian art history.