Palestinian artist Malak Mattar on the ‘most important exhibition of my life’ in Venice 

Palestinian artist Malak Mattar on the ‘most important exhibition of my life’ in Venice 
Mattar believes that her works are being shown at a time when freedom of expression about Palestine is limited. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 April 2024
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Palestinian artist Malak Mattar on the ‘most important exhibition of my life’ in Venice 

Palestinian artist Malak Mattar on the ‘most important exhibition of my life’ in Venice 
  • The Palestinian artist hopes her show in Venice, coinciding with the biennale, will further raise awareness of the horrors being perpetrated in Gaza 

DUBAI: In the art world this week, all eyes will be on Venice. The Italian city will inaugurate the 60th edition of its namesake biennale, arguably the world’s most prestigious art event, on Apr. 20. Coinciding with the biennale is the opening of an intimate exhibition by the Palestinian painter Malak Mattar, who hopes to shed light on the atrocities unfolding in her native city of Gaza on an international stage.  

Mattar’s parents and two younger siblings were recently safely evacuated from Gaza to Egypt. “A burden has been lifted but I still have family members there,” she tells Arab News from Alexandria, where she has been reunited with her family. “The past six months have been a nightmare, to be honest. The situation has been going on for this long because people have become numb and desensitized.”  




Palestinian painter Malak Mattar hopes to shed light on the atrocities unfolding in her native city of Gaza. (Supplied)

This won’t be the first time that 24-year-old Mattar has shown her work in Italy, but her exhibition at Venice’s Ferruzzi Gallery during the biennale opening is a significant milestone in her career, which is going from strength to strength.  

“This might be the most important exhibition that I’ve ever done in my life,” she says. It all began with a chance encounter at her previous exhibition in London. 

Dyala Nusseibeh, director of Abu Dhabi Art, and a prominent figure in the regional art scene, was in attendance and later approached the young artist with a proposal of setting up an exhibition in Venice. “I told her, ‘Of course, let’s do it.’ I was so happy,” she recalls. “I’m grateful to Dyala for making this happen in a short period of time.” 

Her exhibition, which runs until June 14, is called “The Horse Fell off the Poem.” It features one large-scale painting and seven smaller charcoal drawings, showing harrowing images of victims. The show’s title is based on one of the late Palestinian poet and resistance writer Mahmoud Darwish’s works.  

“(Darwish) is part of our individual and collective identity,” says Mattar. “We grew up with his poems, his voice and his story. He was so close to us, like a family member. I still remember his death (in 2008) and it was really hard. His poems are timeless and you can always relate to them, especially now.”  




Mattar believes that her works are being shown at a time when freedom of expression about Palestine is limited. (Supplied)

Previously called “Last Breath”, the large-scale painting has been retitled “No Words.” The black-and-white image depicts hellish and disturbing scenes of loss, chaos, deterioration and death. Mattar doesn’t hold back.  

“The horse has a symbolism and a place in the current time of war,” Mattar previously told Arab News. “Its role has changed from carrying fruits and vegetables to being an ambulance. There’s a strength and hardness to a horse, which is how I also see Gaza; I don’t see it as a weak place. In my memory, I think of it as a place that loves life. It always gets back on its feet after every war.”  

She is aware that her works could stir controversy. That tends to be the case at the biennale, which is renowned for addressing socio-political issues. This year’s theme is “Foreigners Everywhere.” 

“Any reaction is good, whether negative or positive,” Mattar says. “If the work doesn’t elicit any reaction, then the work is not effective.”  

Mattar believes that her works are being shown at a time when freedom of expression about Palestine is limited. This has affected the art world too. In recent months, a US university exhibition of works by the veteran Palestinian artist Samia Halaby was cancelled, the auction house Christie’s withdrew a couple of paintings by Lebanese painter Ayman Baalbaki from a sale (one of them depicted a man in a red and white keffiyeh), and there were calls from the general public to cancel the Israeli national pavilion at the Venice Biennale.  

“The art world is so black and white,” says Mattar. “There is no freedom to express yourself. There are always restraints. So, for “No Words” to be (shown in the same place and at the same time) of the biennale is important. The genocide is still happening. It’s not ending. (These works) are not a reflection of a time that already happened — it’s happening at the moment. The best time to show them is now.”  


Oil tanker hit by missile off Yemen: security firm

Oil tanker hit by missile off Yemen: security firm
Updated 18 min 58 sec ago
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Oil tanker hit by missile off Yemen: security firm

Oil tanker hit by missile off Yemen: security firm
  • The vessel and crew are safe and continuing to its next port of call: UKMTO
  • The incident occurred 76 nautical miles (140 kilometers) off Yemen’s Hodeidah

DUBAI: A crude oil tanker was hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen’s rebel-held city of Mokha overlooking the strategic Bab Al-Mandeb strait, maritime security firm Ambrey said Saturday.
“A Panama-flagged crude oil tanker was reportedly ‘attacked’” about 10 nautical miles southwest of Mokha, Ambrey said, adding that information “indicated the vessel was hit by a missile and that there was a fire in the steering gear flat.”
The British navy’s maritime security agency had earlier said it received a report of a vessel “sustaining slight damage after being struck by an unknown object.”
“The vessel and crew are safe and continuing to its next port of call,” United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) added.
It said the incident occurred 76 nautical miles (140 kilometers) off Yemen’s Hodeidah, without specifying the type of vessel involved.
The Iran-backed Houthis, who control much of Yemen, have launched dozens of attacks on vessels in and around the Red Sea since November in a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in war-torn Gaza.
The milita attacks have prompted reprisal strikes by US and British forces and the formation of an international coalition to protect the vital shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.


Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns

Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns
Updated 53 min 20 sec ago
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Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns

Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns
  • Hong Kong, Singapore last month banned products from Everest and MDH after tests detected presence of ethylene oxide
  • Besides its use as a pesticide, ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment and as a sterilising agent in spices

KATMANDU: Nepal has become the latest jurisdiction to ban the import and sale of two popular Indian spice brands after reports that some of their products contained a cancer-causing pesticide, officials said Friday.
Hong Kong and Singapore last month banned products from Everest and MDH — two brands popular in India and exported worldwide — after tests detected the presence of ethylene oxide, according to media reports.
Besides its use as a pesticide, ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment and as a sterilising agent in spices to prevent illnesses caused by salmonella and E. Coli bacteria.
Regular exposure to the colorless and odourless compound increases the “risk of cancers of the white blood cells,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Matina Joshi Vaidya, chief of Nepal’s Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, told AFP that the Himalayan country had also decided to halt the sale of the spice blends.
“It is an issue of public health,” she said. “We have its banned import and sale from Thursday.”
Nepal has banned four products — three variants produced by MDH and one by Everest.
“We do not have the lab resources to run the tests in the country. The ban will be lifted when Indian authorities declare it safe,” Vaidya said.
Everest and MDH are India’s top two spice brands with a market share of 16 and 10 percent respectively in 2022, according to consumer research monitor Statista.
Both companies have put out statements denying their products pose a health hazard to consumers after the Singapore and Hong Kong import bans.
“We clarify and state unequivocally that these claims are untrue and lack any substantiating evidence,” MDH said last month on social media platform X.
India’s food regulation agency has asked for state authorities to carry out random testing of spice products, broadcaster NDTV reported.


Religion minister inspects catering arrangements for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Madinah

Religion minister inspects catering arrangements for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Madinah
Updated 18 May 2024
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Religion minister inspects catering arrangements for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Madinah

Religion minister inspects catering arrangements for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Madinah
  • Pakistan’s Hajj Mission has hired seven catering companies in Madinah to oversee food arrangements for pilgrims
  • Chaudhry Salik Hussain urges catering firms to pay special attention to quality of flour, vegetables, meat and spices

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, Chaudhry Salik Hussain, has visited various firms in Madinah and inspected catering arrangements for Pakistani Hajj pilgrims, the Pakistani religious affairs ministry said on Saturday.
Pakistan’s Hajj Mission has hired seven catering companies in Madinah to oversee food arrangements for pilgrims as they arrive in Saudi Arabia’s holy cities from for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage in June.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able.
Hussain, who is currently in the Kingdom, inspected various stages of food preparation and packaging for the pilgrims, and lauded all departments for the “excellent work.”
“Special attention should be paid to the quality of flour, rice, vegetables, meat, pulses and spices,” he was quoted as telling officials of catering firms. “Catering companies should try to use all ingredients, spices and meat from Pakistan.”
He said using Pakistani commodities and spices would not only benefit Pakistan, but it would also maintain the Pakistani taste, adding that an online survey through the Pak Hajj mobile app would be conducted for the feedback of the pilgrims.
Pakistan has a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year, of which 63,805 people will perform the pilgrimage under the government scheme, while the rest will use private tour operators. This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14-19.
Pakistani pilgrims have been arriving in Madinah since May 9 when Pakistan launched its pre-Hajj flight operation. More than 20,000 Pakistani pilgrims have since arrived in Madinah under the government scheme.


Pakistan praises Saudi Arabia over facilitating Hajj for its nationals

Pakistan praises Saudi Arabia over facilitating Hajj for its nationals
Updated 18 May 2024
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Pakistan praises Saudi Arabia over facilitating Hajj for its nationals

Pakistan praises Saudi Arabia over facilitating Hajj for its nationals
  • Pakistani pilgrims have been arriving in Madinah since May 9 when pre-Hajj flight operations were launched
  • Pakistani minister is currently visiting Madinah to oversee Hajj arrangements for his nationals

RIYADH: Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Chaudhry Salik Hussain has expressed his appreciation to Saudi Arabia for the exceptional services and facilities provided to Pakistani pilgrims who will be taking part in Hajj this year.
Minister Hussain’s remarks came in a statement delivered in Madinah, where he is currently visiting to oversee Hajj arrangements for Pakistani pilgrims, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Pakistan has a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year, of which 63,805 people will perform the pilgrimage under the government scheme while the rest will use private tour operators. This year’s Hajj is expected to run from June 14-19.
Pakistani pilgrims have been arriving in Madinah since May 9 when pre-Hajj flight operations were launched. Over 20,000 Pakistani pilgrims have so far arrived in Madinah under the government scheme.
The Pakistani official particularly praised the Saudi leadership for launching the Makkah Route Initiative at Karachi International Airport, mirroring the program already established at Islamabad International Airport.
Hussain was also confident the initiative will be extended to Lahore Airport in the coming year.


Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army

Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army
Updated 18 May 2024
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Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army

Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army
  • The strike by a fighter jet and helicopter killed Islam Khamayseh
  • Khamayseh was a leader of the Jenin Battalion

RAMALLAH: The Israeli military said on Saturday it killed a senior Palestinian militant during an air strike on an “operations center” in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
“A number of significant terrorists were inside the compound,” the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement posted to Telegram.
It said the strike by a fighter jet and helicopter killed Islam Khamayseh, a “senior terrorist operative in the Jenin Camp” who was responsible for a series of attacks in the area.
The Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, confirmed in a statement that Khamayseh was killed and several others wounded during an Israeli raid on Friday night.
It said Khamayseh was a leader of the Jenin Battalion, which is affiliated with Islamic Jihad.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said one person was killed and eight were wounded and receiving hospital treatment as a result of Israel’s operation in Jenin on Friday night.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and its troops routinely carry out incursions into areas such as Jenin, which are nominally under the Palestinian Authority’s security control.
The West Bank has seen a recent surge in violence, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
More than 500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since October 7, according to Palestinian officials, and at least 20 Israelis have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
The Gaza Strip has been at war since Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has killed at least 35,303 people, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.