Sliman Mansour’s painting Jamal al Mahamel, or The Camel of Hardships (2005), portrays exile from within occupied Palestine: burdened by longing and loss, a fatigued old porter is shown carrying Jerusalem on his back from within an endless void. The painting’s solemn vision is accentuated through the matte and smooth effect of the acrylic paint, which intensifies the oppressiveness of the expansive light blue and gray surrounding. While the colors (and the features) of the Palestinian porter are similarly muted, the bright red of the scarf in the middle of the painting simultaneously breaks its monotony and keeps it from further diluting.

This painting and many others by Mansour were reproduced as posters or postcards for ease of acquisition and circulation. This allowed the artists and their work to both serve the cause and preserve the visual history. Reproduction of such artworks in print was especially crucial for Palestinian artists at the time because there were virtually no permanent galleries or art centers in occupied Palestine until the mid-1990s.

Instead of creating art solely in the service of national political movements, works like Mansour’s stressed the dissolution of life by removing clear horizon lines and abstracting landscapes. Here, for instance, Mansour illustrated Jerusalem as a glowing, utopian city with meticulous architecture, and the Dome of the Rock disproportionately large behind the porter’s head. This idealistic scene is held together within the contours of an eye shaped space. At the same time, the porter’s face lacks the details of defined features, especially when it comes to his eyes. Instead, what he carries on his tired back is what his eyes really see – a sight larger than life, too large to fit within the old man’s sunken face.

Signed in Arabic and English on the lower right front