Ayyam Gallery raising a fund of support for Palestine with event - GulfToday

Ayyam Gallery raising a fund of support for Palestine with event

A composition titled Incubator.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

“We are overwhelmed,” says Ayyam Gallery, “much like the rest of the world. Palestine needs our collective support.” To show its concern, it is holding a fundraising exhibition at its gallery space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai (Dec. 14 — 18). The event is licensed by Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department and is showcasing the works of Sami Samawi.

Though an architect by profession, the events in Gaza affected him so deeply, they impelled him to create the artworks currently on show. They witness the dreams he and those living in Palestine have for the country, even through the nightmare it is suffering. The works are for sale and the gallery is partnering the Little Wings Foundation, Dubai, in the effort.

All the proceeds will go to the children of Gaza. The exhibition consists of a series of AI-generated videos titled Their Voices, Our Dreams. It is an exploration of the Gaza war, motivated by the artist’s dreams, no less than those of empathic others, combined with the surreal daily footage of the conflict.

The videos represent a blend of hopeful future visions amidst the current grim reality of war. It is a fusion of both dreams and nightmares. “Sweet are the uses of adversity Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head”. William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

 A work titled IDF calendar.

The surreal aspect of the AI art mirrors the fragmented way in which we may be consuming news about the war, in brief clips on small screens, away from the full horror of the situation. Each piece in the series reflects the hope amidst despair that undoubtedly also characterises the lives of those affected by the conflict.

The medium of AI art is another way on how most of us engage with the war – not through direct experience, but via digital representation. Since the viewer may be far from the war zone, the exhibition serves to make the intense emotions of the conflict more accessible and manageable, being felt once removed.

It is Sami’s way of softening the blow — an approach that allows the audience to connect with the emotional trauma of the war without being overwhelmed by the severity of direct contact. Through videos and photographs, his aim is to highlight the voices of hope and despair that echo from Gaza, making the struggle of its people more evident and relatable.

The art provides a unique perspective on the conflict: it makes it easier for viewers to absorb and engage with the reality of the situation, while also offering them a glimpse into the resilience and enduring spirit of the Palestinian people. The watermelon looms large in the artworks. The fruit has been an objet de la resistance for the Palestinians and Sami incorporates it frequently in his compositions.

The watermelon is a symbol of Palestinians’ public expression in protests and artworks, representing their struggle against Israeli occupation of their territories. The Palestinian flag, coloured red, green, white and black, has historically been banned at times in Israel. So, for decades, the locally grown and similarly coloured watermelon has served in Palestinian iconography as an alternative.

Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel banned the display of the Palestinian flag and its colours in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem, with the Israeli army arresting anyone who displayed it. In 1993, as part of the Oslo Accords, Israel lifted the ban on the Palestinian flag and in 2007, artist, curator and writer Khaled Hourani, created an image of the watermelon for a “Subjective Atlas of Palestine” project.

 A picture of Gaza after an assault.

Other artists who have used the watermelon include Sarah Hatahet, Sami Boukhari, Aya Mobaydeen and Beesan Arafat. “Growing up as an Arab in the diaspora, like many others with similar backgrounds,” Sami says, “I often found myself distancing from my Arabic heritage. Questions such as “What has my country ever given me?” or thoughts of being a “citizen of the world” led to a deep-seated identity crisis. “But, recently, I’ve come to a profound realisation: these beliefs were misguided.

My culture is rich, vibrant, and beautiful. I understand now that the West often expects us Arabs, particularly of the diaspora, to relinquish our cultural roots in favour of a more “universal” identity. Witnessing the unity and strength of my people and my culture has stirred something deep within me. It has sparked a sense of pride in my heritage, especially as I see my brothers and sisters face unimaginable hardships. Hearing “Palestine has liberated me” resonates profoundly with me.

It speaks to a liberation from my own identity crisis. It reaffirms my roots.” A Syrian of the Arabic diaspora, he was born in Switzerland and has a diverse background, having lived in Damascus, Ohio, Philadelphia, and currently in Dubai. His family’s deep involvement in Middle Eastern and Arabic contemporary art has significantly influenced his path.

He earned a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 2021, combining his education with a passion for the narrative potential of architecture and moving images. “I am committed to employing innovative methods to bring depth and authenticity to my ideas,” he says. As both an architect and an artist, he attempts to merge the realms of image and space, serving to create compelling and dynamic narratives in his work.


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