Letter from the Artists of The Exodus and the Odyssey


The twentieth century has withered away without eliminating the effects of the most horrible tragedy in modern times, the colossal calamity of Palestine in 1948. Moreover, its repercussions continue to bear on our lives as Palestinians and as Arabs through the confiscation of land and uprooting the people, and dispersing them throughout the world under the skies of strange lands and in the absence of the homeland.

Since our march began in the early 1950's, and for half a century, the issue of the Palestinian human being, his land and people, have remained our main interest and our sole obsession in terms of artistic work. It formulated our humanistic conscience and consciousness, and awakened in each one of us the perception and the language of creativity.

We became able to draw and depict the bitter experiences of the cruel journey, the journey of our uprooting, Ismail (from Lydda) and Tamam (from Jaffa) – a journey and an experience lived, one way or another, by each Palestinian. Through out the past 50 some years, we produced hundreds of paintings that were exhibited in Palestinian and elsewhere in the Arab World and foreign countries.

In 1997, we visited Palestine. We toured the country in its entirety including Lydda and Jaffa – our hometowns. The visit had a large impact on our sentiments and feelings. Memories were evoked and the images of events, which we lived, were renewed – with all the suffering and bitterness that they entailed. It also evoked was our determination to survive.

Immediately upon our return from this trip, we started working on the “Jidariyat” paintings. These are large–sized paintings or murals (200 X 165 cm) each. Over the following 4 years we completed 19 of them, (11 for Ismail and 8 for Tamam). Within these murals, we were able to illustrate our memories and document our experiences before, during, and after the "Alnakba" (catastrophe) of 1948 in Palestine as well as the bitter journey our country men and women had to endure. Finally, we ended the series with murals depicting the future dreams and aspirations of our people. Therefore, we felt it was appropriate to give this series the title "The Exodus and the Odyssey" since it depicts our personal experiences during the exodus and the odyssey of our people.

Because truth does not die, and because each succeeding generation is a continuation of its roots, and also because perhaps we feared that our instruments would rebel against our feelings and capability, or that this human rights issue will becloud both time and one’s life, we saw that we should portray it once again through our life experience and through our long and rich artistic background; so that the image of this homeland –land and people – remains alive in the eyes of the coming generations and in the conscience of all nations.

Ismail and Tamam Shammout