7 Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About

Art can change the world, and as these Palestinian artists are proof, it can also unravel the path to healing, transformation and greater understanding

By Maghie Ghali 

October 31, 2023

Palestinian artist you need to know Malak Mattar

With the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Gaza for decades, it’s easy to forget that the region is blessed with incredible Palestinian artists who are using their canvas for change. From emerging young talents to established award-winning masters, here are some of the artistic voices from Palestine you need to know about.

Khalil Rabah

Born in Jerusalem in 1961, Ramallah-based conceptual artist Khalil Rabah is known for his engaging artworks centring on themes of identity, displacement and history. He graduated with a degree in fine art and architecture from the University of Texas and has since participated in numerous exhibitions around the world, as well as several biennials, including the São Paulo Biennial, Venice Biennale and Istanbul Biennial.

Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About Khalil Rabah

Over the years, his work has been acquired by major institutions including The British Museum, The Guggenheim and The Sharjah Art Foundation. Rabah is also the co-founder of Al-Ma‘mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem and ArtSchool Palestine in London, as well as artistic director of the Riwaq Biennial. Most notable he is the founder of the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind, an ongoing project based on a fictitious institution which challenges conventional western notions of museology. Recreated differently in every location, its form and content vary; indeed, its very instability suggests the difficulty of creating an identity in the face of an occupation and displacement.

Malak Mattar

Malak Mattar, born in 2000 and raised in Gaza, quickly became a fixture of the Palestinian art scene, when at the age of 13 she began painting her everyday reality during the 2014 Gaza War, as a way to express her emotions and heal her trauma, with the encouragement of her uncle and fellow painter Mohammed Musallam.

Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About Malak Mattar

In 2017, Mattar was given the opportunity to study abroad, after graduating high school with the second-highest GPA in Palestine. She attended university at Istanbul Aydin University in Turkey, where she studied Political Science and International Relations and in 2023 began studying at London’s Central St Martins for master’s degree.

Her paintings are bold and colourful despite the tragic events that inspire them and often deal with her personal feelings and experience as a woman in Palestine. Her work has been shown in 80 countries around the world. Often, her style is likened to that of Picasso or Frida Kahlo, with Palestinian symbols of oranges, birds, olive trees and pomegranates featuring in her artworks.

Dima Srouji

Architect and artist Dima Srouji is based between Ramallah and London. Exploring the erasure of cultural heritage – especially through the lens of archaeology, history and traditions.

Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About Dima Srouji

After completing architecture degrees at Kingston University and Yale University, she began her own artistic practice Hollow Forms Studio and has taught design at London’s Royal College of Art in London. Through film, glass and plaster, her art projects are often developed closely with archaeologists, anthropologists, sound designers, and glassblowers.

Srouji was the 2022-2023 Jameel Fellow at the Victoria & Albert Museum, where she replicated Levantine glass artefacts taken by western archaeologists and institutions. Her clear glass forms are an attempt to reclaim Palestine’s lost heritage and comment on the history of western institutions claiming other culture’s historical treasures.

Abdul Rahman Katanani

Born in 1983 and raised in the Sabra refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, Abdul Rahmna Katanani is a third generation Palestinian refugee, who’s grandparents left Jaffa in 1948. He began his artistic career at the tender age of 15 as a cartoonist, creating satirical drawings about the corruption and misappropriation of United Nations subsidies and daily camp life.

Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About Abdul Rahman Katanani

When studying at the School of Fine Arts in Beirut, his artwork quickly developed a political language, created from barbed wire, corrugated iron, pieces of wood and oil barrels – whatever recycled materials might be found and used in refugee camp – to tell the story of the collective Palestinian experience. Some of his most famous works include massive waves made from barbed wire, taking over whole gallery space, comparing the displacement and suffering of Palestinians to a tsunami that sweeps away all hope and joy.

Samar Hussaini

Samar Hussaini’s work is deeply rooted in her Palestinian heritage and culture, blending mixed-media fine arts with traditional Palestinian embroidery known as tatreez. Born in the US, she graduated with a BFA in Art History and Studio Arts from the University of Maryland before pursuing a Master’s degree in communication design from Pratt Institute in New York.

Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About Samar Hussaini

Her artistic practice is colourful and contemporary, whilst still paying homage to the creativity of her homeland. Through stitched together paintings, sculptures and ready-to-wear garments, her multi-disciplinary approach speaks to the complexities of identity through the use of the traditional tatreez embroidery that has different patterns and designs for different regions of Palestine. Hussaini modernizes this stunning embroidery to represent the identity of those living in the diaspora, symbolizing new Palestinian identities.

In 2022, Hussaini achieved international acclaim for her participation in the Venice Biennale collateral group exhibit ‘From Palestine with Love’, sponsored by the Palestine Museum, with a dress-based installation featuring hand-dyed abayas with embroidery in modern colours and designs.

Taysir Batniji

Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About Taysir Batniji

Born in Gaza in 1966, Taysir Batniji now lives between his hometown and Paris. He studied art at Al-Najah University in Nablus and in 1994, was awarded a fellowship to study at the School of Fine Arts of Bourges in France. Since then, he tried several times to return to Gaza – unsuccessfully – and the constant instability directed his artwork towards themes of impermanence, loss and fragility, drawing from his deeply personal experiences, including the death of his brother.

In 2012 he was awarded the Abraaj Group Art Prize and became the recipient of the Immersion residency program, supported by Hermes Foundation, in alliance with Aperture Foundation in 2017. His works can be found in the collections of many prestigious institutions, such as Centre Pompidou, the Victoria & Albert and The Imperial War Museum in London.

Reem R.

Rounding off our list of Palestinian artists you need to know is the up and coming visual artist Reem R. (1995) who creates work inspired and influenced by daily observations, human interactions, personal experiences, and memories. Contrasting vivid colour palettes and carefully-composed paintings, the works capture the essence of her inner world, intertwining personal symbols with cultural references.

Palestinian Artists You Need To Know About Reem R

In 2017 she achieved her Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Design at the American University of Sharjah. Her work has been exhibited in Qatar and the UAE, and further afield in Croatia, France, Morocco, South Africa, and Spain. Her paintings usually transform pop-art like images of everyday items and icons into bizarre still lifes, inviting the viewers to engage their imagination to come up with their own interpretations or meanings behind the pieces. 

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Youth's poetry ignites my quest, Against oppression, I protest. In Palestine's struggle, voices rise, For freedom, peace, justice, my cries.
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