Abdul Hay Mosallam Zarara, a Palestinian artist whose work often focused on his country’s history and people, has died at age 87. The news has been reported by Palestinian outlets such as the Ma’an News Agency and Collectif Palestine Vaincra.
In his practice, Zarara used wood shavings, glue, and acrylic to create vibrant figurative scenes in relief on panel. Some of the artist’s work depicts violence in Palestine, while other pieces by Zarara show ceremonial events or everyday goings-on. His work has been exhibited at the New Museum in New York (in the acclaimed 2014 exhibition “Here and Elsewhere,” which surveyed contemporary art of the Arab world), the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman, the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates, Nottingham Contemporary in the United Kingdom, and other international venues.
Born in the village of Al-Dawayima in 1933, Zarara and his family were displaced from Palestine in the 1948 Nakba, during which some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from the country. According to Collectif Palestine Vaincra, the self-taught artist joined the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1960s and exhibited works in Beirut while the city was occupied by the Israeli army in 1982. In recent years, Zarara lived and worked in Amman.
Some of the artist’s past sales at auction have included The Fort of Steadfastness, which went for $32,500 at Christie’s in 2016, and AKWA MIN AL MAGZARA (MORE POWERFUL THAN THE MASSACRE), which sold for £22,500 (about $29,4000) at an online auction with Sotheby’s in March 2020.
Sharjah Art Foundation president and director Hoor Al Qasimi said in a statement to ARTnews, “Over the course of his remarkable life and career, Zarara made an essential contribution to contemporary art in the region and created a significant body of work that was informed by the spirit of resilience and self-determination. It was an honor and privilege to curate and present his work at Sharjah Art Foundation.”
Omar Kholeif, director of collections and senior curator at the Sharjah Art Foundation, posted a photo of the artist on Instagram with the caption, “What an incredible life and body of art you have left behind.”
Update 8/4/20: This article has been updated to include a statement from Sharjah Art Foundation president and director Hoor Al Qasimi.