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Shadi Habib Allah, Daga'a (still), 2015

HD Video, 18 mins. 53 sec

New York-based artist Shadi Habib Allah has spent the past few months in Ramallah, conceiving a new work around an endemic yet dispersed clan: the Bedouins of the Sinai Peninsula. The group inhabits the buffer zone that separates Israel from Egypt, whose domain the peninsula has been on and offsince 1949. Carved up and redrawn many times, Sinai is the closest thing to home for the nomadic Bedouins, who have been disenfranchised of any claims to the land for nearly as long as they have traversed its rust-coloured desert. This fraught subject matter – as Habib Allah is clearly aware, and wary, of – prefigures another complex issue: the decay of the Arab Spring overlapping with an Arab ‘moment’ blossoming in the international art market. (Last year saw the debut of two Dubai-based galleries at Art Basel, one of which, Green Art Gallery, showed Habib Allah’s work as part of Statements.) Any such ‘moment’ benefits as much as it seems to challenge Habib Allah. A Palestinian who grew up in Israel, the artist is conversant with the region’s struggles; but his works don’t exhibit their tropes. For him to consider engaging with the loaded locales of this region at a time when it is receiving increased exposure in the market constitutes an exploration of unfamiliar terrain.

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