אנא היא - أنا هي- I Am Her

Buthina Abu Milhem - Sohad Deeb - Doaa Badran - Rahmi Hamzi

Why?
This is the second exhibition, part two of three exhibitions to be presented during one year (2019-2020) at
the Peace Gallery - Givat Haviva, dealing with the unequal positioning of women in Israel even in this post-postmodern period.

The first exhibition, "I am the Laboring Art", presented the artistic path of two female artists from the kibbutz movement.
Gender inequality and artistic inequality were also present in the kibbutz society in Israel. Despite the fact that it was a society that championed the value of equality, in practice this did not materialize in the aspects of gender and art. Part 3 will be presented at the exhibition planned for early 2020, which will focus on the issue of the Femicide in Israel.

I Am Her presents a penetrating x-ray of four female artists who are members of the Arab-Palestinian society in Israel, examining the condition and the positioning of women in that society, as well as their situation in Israel in general and in other Muslim societies in the world. It brings a multi-dimensional
statement both locally and globally. The exhibition was created out of an accompanying perception of the wide-ranging repercussions of the Me Too campaign in the world and in Israel, and following a year in which over twenty women were murdered in Israel, 192 women over the past decade.
Buthina Abu Milhem, Sohad Deeb, Rahmi Hamzi and Doaa Badran, each present a personal and blazing angle. The totality of their views together presents a multi-generational, complex and complementary view that, in developmental observation, also shows a changing vision.

Buthina Abu Milhem
Abu Milhem, who has been active in the artistic arena for a considerable time, brings a semi-traditional perspective that expresses woman and her role as the keeper of Palestinian culture, memory and pain through the presence of traditional sewing techniques of Palestinian embroidery, which has become the symbol of feminine culture and resistance.  Through artistic moves she creates a garment that cannot be worn, which is frozen in time. Through feminine actions of mediation and connection, between past and present, authentic and modern, art and craft, "shirts" are sewn and a rural tradition and culture is woven into a present where the needles are stuck and the threads remain unraveled in the air.
"The surface of Arab fabric is her world, and what is embroidered and embedded in it is her identity card and the resonance of her identity" (Haim Maor) as a woman and as a society. The needle sews and connects but also stabs and multiplies and when many needles are stuck, it hurts.
Milhem shows feminine virtuoso flexibility that had become the legacy of the Palestinian woman. The one that was confined within the boundaries of her home and made it into her kingdom. Her materials are spices from the kitchen (such as coffee), embroidery threads, needles, Arabic cotton fabric, wax and more.
She moves easily in her art among the familiar materials that every Palestinian woman has in her home. Milhem emerges from tradition through the power of the traditional woman as an important axis in the preservation, memory and encryption of the story of the Palestinian people, its culture and its history, through the embroidery made in so many homes as a rare manuscript of history.
In the series from 'The Needle Vanquished the Tailor', the garment is stretched on canvas, the background becomes black, the proverbs and the Arabic language give way to the main presence of the abstract signifier, signified, line and fabric. A central meaning is the changing opening of the garment: with arms that are open and accepting or closed and folded, with hope of connection or a sense of being crucified.
Pride and breaking, language and message, preservation and the freezing of time, are sewn in the passage from craft to art: the garment becomes both object and piece of art. The garment speaks of the body in its absence, in a critical act of objectification.
Buthina presents us with a strong female model that draws its strength from the past and its roots, embracing a feminine identity, family, culture and tradition. Although it works in the present, in the expanses of displacement and detachment, it maintains an upright gaze into the future.

Sohad Deeb
Abu Milhem and Deeb have been collaborating for a long time. Both come from the same village (Ar'ara) and have many overlapping points, but the position of Deeb, who is younger from Abu Milhem by almost a decade, is different in the materials of fire and the bricks she uses to construct her statement.
She speaks in a direct and liberated language, through the preoccupation with the woman's body and her re-appropriation of it against the artistic-colonialist actions of the 18th-century French artist Ingres, in his work "The Turkish Bath," in which he paints the Oriental woman as a Western woman, manifesting an erotic freedom of expression beyond what was customary in Western women's nude paintings at the time. Consistently and obsessively, Deeb captures and deconstructs, cuts and weaves, writes ("virgin", "my body"), covers and emphasizes in countless variations that are all intended to regain the hold on the body of that woman and of the woman she is.
Like her partners in the exhibition, Deeb operates in the space between painting and sculpture, using a wide range of materials: from woman figures made of soil, preserved and frozen in oil jars, through bags of spices and seeds, to acrylics in shades of red, black and gold, on large surfaces that combine weaving, threads, ropes, and men's ties. In the face of 18th century Western perceptions and mostly of the society in which she lives, she speaks of her full right to personal and feminine freedom over her body and desire, of her personal – and other women's - choices of a partner and family life.
Sohad redefines the boundaries of the woman she is, as well as the spaces of feminine privacy to which women are entitled.
She also deals with the obvious ability of the immediate social and cultural environment to invade feminine privacy in a way that feels it is legitimate to appropriate information and satisfy its curiosity.
The curious, unchallenged space of penetration, in which masculinity asks, and even publicly, the woman in Israeli society (both Jewish and Arab) why she has no children, why she is not married… Is she a virgin? Or pregnant? In so doing, she speaks for many women who wish to place the discourse elsewhere in the relationship between men and women.

Rahmi Hamzi
Rahmi Hamzi (24), who lives and works in Bir al-Maksur in northern Israel is a (relatively new) graduate of the Art Department at Haifa University, who has already emerged as a promising young artist who places her position on the female body, religious and sexual motifs, nature, beauty and perfection. Hamzi shapes her works through aesthetic tactics as she deconstructs and reconstructs organic forms of images with botanical motifs on the canvas and in the sculptural space.
Her inspiration is erotic plants and their flowers. When she enlarges the flowers of the plant she shows it in its complete beauty and perfection, fully ready to be seen. "Flowers are reproductive organs of the plant, they are natural and beautiful," she says.
Women and flowers have always been compared to each other with a variety of meanings (purity, fertility, beauty) in a variety of fields (literature, art, poetry, etc.), except a significant part of that is silenced in the world where Rahmi grew up. She enriched her inner world on her own, through the many books she read
about femininity and body.  This was complemented by a thick layer of advanced feminist concepts that she developed in her studies. Together, they accumulated into a gentle but heavy mass.
Along with her great delicacy, which appears to be her personal stamp, there is courage and determination in the importance she attributes to her need, as an Arab woman to speak of natural femininity and sexuality that are even more present as they are silenced.
In her delicate craft-like sculpture she thus creates ritual objects. They address the beautiful and natural feminine and she calls them Sacred Organs. She repeatedly paints herself in subtle, semi-abstract oil paintings, featuring multiple gazes and directions of organic shapes of the female body, sometimes her own face, sometimes enlarged parts of flora.

Doaa Badran
Like Hamzi, Badran is another young artist who brings a strong, clear voice looking at the woman and her free essence and great spirit through mythologies and connection to nature – through which they express both her greatness and powerlessness (at the cost she had had to pay during ages of patriarchy).
Badran, 26, from Haifa, a graduate of the Art Department at Haifa University like Ramzi, follows the transition between material and form in her work. Her drawings and sculptures are in constant dialogue, connected but not uniform.
Badran's sculptures are created by combining traditional motifs with everyday readymade objects.
Different materials crystallize under her hands into an image that is always an image of a body, a female body.
The building blocks of femininity in Badran's work are mythology, tradition, and questions on the essence of life. Her exploration of mythology begins with Damiana, the Mother Goddess of whose blood the world was created, through sacred sexual priestesses in the Babylonian culture who were perceived as saints.
She examines the feminine role in the world, what is female holiness, and what is the role of humanity, what is perfection. Through these questions she also asks about the world itself from a feminine perspective: Should we give in order to receive in this world? Should one ever be born?
Badran's body is wounded; There is an amputation or damage that brings together material and shape. The artist tends to the wound and thus it becomes an inherent part of the work. Who injured and who was hurt? The artist or the material? An example is Umbilical Cord, in which she works with steel wool. The process is deep, personal, sometimes even therapeutic, but its power lies in the fact that it expresses the essential, the mythological, as if examining and seeking to reach the core definition of feminine essence.

Epilogue
It is not certain that the four artists will be able to close a circle of one common statement, but this is the quality of femininity, it does not need it.
It has the ability to create complex statements that contain both and.
Together, they create a rich tapestry of feminine wisdom that reflects strong and meaningful femininity both in the traditional space and in the contemporary space.  Still, it is a femininity that is struggling for its right to exist in the world.

Anat Lidror, Curator.