Odyssey of a People
6 meters x 1 meter
Oil on Canvas
We are proud to announce this epic masterpiece by the late Ismail Shammout.
A distinctive masterpiece by the late Palestinian artist Ismail Shammout. One of the most prominent features of this mural, is its size; a single sheet of canvas that is 6 meters wide, by 1 meter high. The powerful imagery and the sheer size of this oil painting are awe inspiring. It tells the story of a nation in a single painting that reads from right-to-left like an Arabic sentence. Starting from the ‘Nakba’ catastrophe, that befell the Palestinian People from the beginnings of the last century to their hopes and dreams. From a historical perspective, it documents the events and atrocities lived and endured by the artist himself as well as his fellow countrymen and women. He completed it in 1980 while living in Beirut- Lebanon.
From an artistic view point, this painting is considered one of Shammout’s greatest works. In addition to being Shammout’s largest work in size, the work is rich with symbols and allusions that are dispersed throughout.
The vicious and inhuman face of the aggressor appears on the right-hand side painted in dark and gloomy colours. The unarmed and defenseless people desperately trying to stop him, and push him back with their bare hands. Amongst the masses, the face of Abd Al-Qadir Al-Husayni, one of the most prominent leaders of the Palestinian rebellion in the 1930’s. Further left, the artist depicted the different forms of aggression and oppression imposed on the Palestinian people including their displacement from their homeland. In the center of the work, the face of the Palestinian freedom fighter; which became the symbol of the resistance movement that took up organized armed struggle after two decades of helplessness in the diaspora. His face is as large as the aggressor’s. His tanned face and red eyes represent the days and nights he had spent in vigilant and selfless sacrifice to protect and bring dignity and freedom back to his people. Wearing the black and white ‘Keffiyeh’ a symbol of the Palestinian freedom fighters he is significantly brighter than the aggressor. He is looking away from the aggressor and towards his objective, the far-left side of the painting.
In stark contrast to dark and dismal monster on the right, the work culminates on the left-hand side with vivid and joyful colours and images of celebrations; the hopes and dreams of the Palestinian people in victory, freedom, and peace.
Interwoven throughout the work, are numerous symbols of special significance to the artist. In the mid-left side of the work for example, the artist painted an image of his own father “Abdul Qader Shammout” with an expression as if he was telling the story of his people and their aspirations. In the mid-right side of the painting, a cactus tree, a symbol of the Palestinian people’s resoluteness and endurance despite the oppression, killings, and imprisonments. In the middle of the work, we clearly see imagery that represent the artist’s prediction of the ‘intifada’, the uprising of the Palestinian people against the occupation that irrupted in 1987 (7 years after the work’s completion). We also see the young Palestinians’ insatiable appetite for learning and education.
Shammout is distinguished by his own artistic movement and unique style that conveys a clear message and purpose. He would always make use of the entirety of the space available to him. He would fill every inch with faces or vibrant colours and shapes that harmoniously interact with one another despite differences in their dimensions. Nonetheless, it all comes together in a single complete work, rich in its symbolism, deep in its meaning and clear in its message.