Inside the First Arabic Museum of Contemporary Art

We talked to the curators of the museum's historic first exhibition, 'HIWAR.'

After a long delay due to the Israeli-Gaza war and the aftermath of political tension, the Arabic Museum of Contemporary Art (AMOCA), is officially open to the public. The museum is based in the Israeli-Arabic town of Sakhnin in the Galilee region and houses a collection of over 200 contemporary local and international works of art, showcasing artists from various Arab and Mediterranean countries and backgrounds.

The museum's co-directors and founders, Israeli artists Belu-Simion Fainaru and Avital Bar-Shay, had previously worked together as the co-directors for the Mediterranean Biennale, gathering artists in Israel to showcase artists from or related to the Mediterranean region. While producing the Biennale, however, the pair realized that two years was too long of a gap to prompt artistic dialogue concerning the socio-political troubles within the Middle East and Mediterranean communities. Out of these considerations, the AMOCA was born.  

The museum got its name from a collaboration between the directors and Sakhnin's mayor. It is a reflection of the town housing the museum. Co-director Fainaru tells The Creators Project, the musem will reach beyond it's locality, [it] "will reflect the multi-cultural society that is represented in Israel and also in the Middle East and will confront works that come from artists that belong to different religions and communities."

Ibrahim, Maimouna Guerresi 

Middle Eastern cultures, nationalities, and religions are often lumped together by locale. The museum hopes to help represent these various diverse communities through artwork, to give greater context to the experince of these ethnic/religious groups such as Jews, Muslims, Christians, Sufis, Druze and Bedouins, to name a few.

The main objective of the AMOCA is to help prompt discussion and dialogue regarding peace. The museum's opening exhibition titled HIWAR, was meant to spark socio-political controversy.

Childhood Memory, Raed Bawayah

"'HIWAR' in Arabic has two definitions: either to describe a calm conversation between two or more people, or (especially in a political or conflict context) to describe a process by which two or more parties engage in a conversation that is calm and free from animosity with the aim of reaching an agreement on a certain issue," Fainaru explained.

The definition for "HIWAR" can be translated into the English language as "dialogue". The works in the exhibit highlight individuality, hoping to educate viewers locally and abroad. "AMOCA's goal is that people learn to respect each other customs and coexist," says Fainaru.

Créature pour Chaman, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou


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