Dear Shaded Viewers,
The Institut du Monde Arabe unveils a mesmerizing exhibition, deftly capturing the relentless determination and unyielding spirit that pulsates through Palestinian artistic endeavors, whether nurtured within the borders or thriving in the diaspora. Embarking on a poignant odyssey, the IMA extends an alluring invitation to delve into a nuanced and fervent exploration of visual connections and thematic tapestries, employing a diverse array of curatorial techniques that engage the senses.
At the heart of this captivating showcase lies a photographic discourse that bridges the chasm between the Orientalists’ romanticised portrayals of the “fabricated” Holy Land and the contemporary artistic expressions that defiantly emerge. Amidst this vibrant tapestry, one cannot help but be enthralled by a remarkable exhibit showcasing the invaluable Palestinian archives of Jean Genet, the enigmatic French novelist, playwright, and poet who, from 1910 to 1986, delved fearlessly into the realms of provocation and controversy. Genet’s unyielding prose, often exploring the depths of criminality, homosexuality, and societal outcasts, was indelibly shaped by his personal experiences as a petty criminal and his time spent behind prison walls.
As he traversed the globe, Genet forever remained a writer at his core. His support for the black American community and Palestinian freedom fighters shattered the self-imposed silence that enveloped him, propelling him into an arena where words became weapons. Initially, he expressed his solidarity through articles and militant texts, but it wasn’t long before the poet reclaimed his rightful place amidst the fray. These movements, which he described as both “captive” and “in love,” furnished the raw material and allegorical fodder for his final opus and the written treasures tucked within those very suitcases.
In 1970, responding to the call of the Black Panthers, Genet embarked on a transatlantic voyage, spending two mesmerising months in the United States alongside these iconic figures of resistance. Come October, he embraced an eight-day invitation to visit the Palestinian camps, immersing himself deeply in their struggle for almost two years. Despite his self-imposed vow of silence, from 1971 to 1983, Jean Genet meticulously documented his experiences, penning articles on the Black Panthers and the Palestinians, crafting film scripts that would forever remain unrealised.
“I didn’t distinguish between Panthers, I cherished them all, equally and ardently. The Black Panther phenomenon had bewitched me. I was smitten,” declared Genet, encapsulating the profound emotional resonance that underscored his journey.
Parallel to Genet’s engagement stands the formidable Black Panther movement, a revolutionary socialist organization founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in the radiant heart of Oakland, California. The Black Panther Party boldly confronted the systemic oppression endured by African Americans, championing self-defense, grassroots organizing, and social programs as beacons of hope in a landscape shrouded in racial discrimination. Yet, as we gaze upon the world’s present-day tapestry, it becomes painfully apparent that the progress we sought has remained agonizingly elusive.
Élias Sanbar, Marion Slitine, Albert Dichy, Éric Delpont
Institut du monde arabe
1, rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard – Place Mohammed V