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Abdul-Rahman Mezayan
Khan Younis / Al-Qubayba, al Ramla , Palestine
 (1944-    )
Abdul-Rahman Mezayan - Has founded The National Union of Palestinian and Arab Plastic Artists. He returned to Gaza City with the Palestinian forces in 1994.
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Abdul-Rahman Mezayan

Artist, graphic designer, academic, and brigadier-general, Dr. Abdul Rahman Mezayan is a man of many achievements and diverse experiences. Born in 1944 in Al-Qubaiba, a suburb of Al-Ramleh, as a child he loved to draw on the walls of his village with chalk and was excited by the vivid colours used by his neighbours, refugees from the town of Majdal (now Ashqelon), in their dressmaking. He discovered his love of history and graphics in the ubiquitous illustrations of Arabic legend of the battling knights: Abu Zaid Al-Helali and Diab Bin Ghanem. His first grade teacher was the father of Palestinian art, Ismail Shammout.

Mezayan's father was a leader of the resistance who had instilled in him from an early age a passion for the Palestinian cause. In 1961, he left Khan Younis, to which his family had been exiled, to study at the College of Fine Arts of Helwan University in Alexandria from which he received his BA and MA. From there he went to Jordan and became involved with the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) and for over thirty years he covered much of the Arab world travelling with them.

While on his travels, he visited the savannah villages of Africa and was inspired by the deep connection the people had to their land and the striking elegance of their art. He was fascinated by the power of the African mask as a medium of spiritual energy and as art-object in its own right. He decided he wanted to create a Palestinian mask, a medium to express the spirituality and culture of his own country.

In his recent exhibition of paintings, A Mural of My Homeland, he transfigures the Palestinian embroidered dress into such a medium, integrating elements of traditional architecture, artefacts and decoration to form a unified expression of Palestinian culture. Every aspect of his paintings has a message. The saturated colours, the intense blue, gold, and carmine are Phoenician colours of renewal. He draws from myths but interprets them in an original and contemporary way. Each artist must have his own struggle, he explains. Mine has been to take ancient symbolic language of my culture and translate it to a modern context. The results are radiant tapestries rich with meaning that stand out in strong relief against their backgrounds. Each painting is designed as a unit to fit together to form one mural. I am first a muralist. He believes that it is the mural that can embrace the epic nature of Palestinian history.

The development of an original style has been one of his primary goals and he has focused solely on antiquity and indigenous culture for inspiration. Of the influence of Western art, he says, most Palestinian artists copy the Europeans. What has the West given us?

He is currently working on a series of dynamic compositions in black and white, carrying the theme of Palestine's present struggle for liberation. Here presides the goddess Ishtar, mother of the Canaanites, her dress embroidered with a calligraphic pattern of doves. Amidst tanks and ruined towns, the date palm and the ancient olive thrive as symbols of fertility and generosity. I want to present our case but without hostility. The spiralling image of the sun appears in almost all his drawings, representing hope.

Dr. Abdul Rahman Mezayan has exhibited his art nationally and internationally since 1968. In 1993, he was awarded a doctorate in archaeology from Khartoum University.

Mezayan has authored several books including The Encyclopaedia of Palestinian Heritage, The Sonono Bird, and A Fingerprint of African Art. He has founded The National Union of Palestinian and Arab Plastic Artists. He returned to Gaza City with the Palestinian forces in 1994, where he now lives with his family.


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Abdul-Rahman Mezayan