Khalil Rabah

Common Geographies, 2019
Mixed-media installation, new commission

In Palestine, embroidery is a pre-eminent symbol of the nation, a marker of history. Ubiquitous in the contemporary landscape, it is shorthand for a heritage threatened by occupation, and for resistance against erasure. Indelibly associated with the bodies and labour of women, embroidery feels domestic and intimate, while simultaneously standing for Palestinian endurance. Embroidery is evocative, yet unprovocative; it feels both personal and universal.
Khalil Rabah addresses the ambivalent tension in which embroidery exists, through his sprawling mosaics of patchworked, embroidered maps. While some feel familiar in outline—the Gaza Strip, the West Bank—others are less recognizable. Several feel like strange conglomerations of half-familiar spaces: imagined landscapes that reconcile isolated parts of the country, or restore the historic dominion of ancient cities. Introducing fiction into a practice obsessed with precision, Rabah’s embroidered cartography addresses the contested nature of territory in Palestine, while fantasizing about more fluid futures.

Text by Rachel Dedman
Co-Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation