Revolution | Toufic Abdul-Al
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Revolution

The Revolution: A Horse and a Cactus

The revolution remained manifested in most of Toufic Abdul-Al’s works, even those works that tackle other topics. In his works inspired by Acre’s beach and the Palestinian landscape, the romantic nostalgia for the lost homeland and the urgent desire to re-live it is obvious. Additionally, his work on motherhood connected to the massacres of Tel Al-Zaatar, and his work on women in general, had very clear signs of rebellion, protest and revolution. The Arab horse is often depicted in his works as a symbol of revolt. “The Take-off” a painting from (1973), reveals the artist’s political stand, whereby the white horse seems like calling for revolt.

The horse is painted a transparent white. Its head is leaning towards the sky as if he is singing the song of freedom. The grace of its body and its posture refers to readiness to revolt. The chains constrict one of its feet while the other adheres to a red and circular formation that looks like a ball of flames. All of these elements are visual signals symbolizing the moment of take-off.

Finally, Toufic Abdul-Al often painted the cactus plant as a symbol of steadfastness and resistance. The cactus is a symbol adopted by many Palestinian artists to represent Palestinian identity after the Nakba, most notably the late artist Assem Abu Shakra from the city of Umm al-Fahm (1961 – 1990). Among his un-shown works, are still lives depicting roses and flowers placed in vases or a cactus plant placed in a pot labelled with number “65”. The cactus appeared in many of his works, especially in ink on paper works. The only remaining painting representing a cactus in a pot, is interesting as it reveals a telepathy between two post-Nakba artists, who both drew the same pot in two different periods.

The cactus by Abdul-Al portrayed in the sixties (two decades before the cactus of Asim Abu Shakra), carries the same meanings: the resilience of the Palestinian people and their ability to maintain and assert their identity Number “65” painted on the pot is associated with the cactus refers to the start of the Palestinian revolution movement (1 January 1965). Thus, Abdul-Al work chronicles the revolutionary Palestinian resistance through a cactus that is able to survive, flourish and bloom.