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From the Archive Room

Art exhibition dedicated to El-Funoun Popular Dance Troupe, part the celebration of its 40th anniversary

4 August - 4 October 2019

A. M. Qattan Foundation Cultural Centre
Ramallah, Palestine

Curator: Yazid Anani

Photos of the exhibition  

El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe was established in 1979 by a small number of enthusiastic, talented and committed artists. Since then, El-Funoun has been crowned as the lead Palestinian dance company in Palestine and throughout the diaspora. With an impressive track record of over one thousand performances across the globe, it has also produced fifteen productions and over ten dance scenes. Over the years, El-Funoun has received several awards and commendation certificates for its work.
more about El-Funoun

As part of El-Funoun’s 40th anniversary celebration, A.M. Qattan Foundation has dedicated the art exhibition ‘From the Archive Room’ to the group, widely recognized as the cultural entity that has played the most significant role in reviving and reinvigorating Palestinian dance and music folklore.

The public, families and members of El-Funoun Troupe and A.M. Qattan Foundation attended the opening on August 4th. Fida Touma, director general of Qattan Foundation, welcomed the audience, pointing to the importance of the exhibition and the partnership with el-Funoun. Touma thanked El-Funoun for opening their archives for the first time since its establishment, as an exclusive opportunity for Qattan Foundation. Touma added that the exhibition was part of a series of exhibitions organised by the Foundation on an annual basis to contribute, alongside the other cultural organisations, towards establishing an alternative knowledge base that supports the fine-tuning of ‘Palestinian identity, culturally, socially, and politically.’

In his turn, Jamal Haddad, the chairperson of El-Funoun’s board of directors, welcomed the audience and reiterated the importance of the partnership. Haddad added that the decision to transfer the archives was not an easy one, especially that it was presented to the public for the first time. Many of the Troup’s members themselves were never exposed to the archives prior to the exhibition, thus making it a unique new experience for El-Funoun. In his remarks, Haddad mentioned Hafez Omar, a member of the troupe, who was arrested while preparing for the exhibition.

The curator of the exhibition Yazid Anani, said that the exhibition’s concept constituted a precedent since it is not easy for one party to entrust another party, other than the person who has custody over the archives, with the right to rearrange, reconstruct, and reproduce the archival materials, through a process of artistic selection and presentation, or to allow technology to re-position the archives and their physical manifestations, or the right to borrow from the archives and put it on display.

It is noteworthy that the concept of the exhibition started as a comparative process to examine the policies of the body in Palestine through the history of El-Funoun and ended up with a lengthy and in-depth process of exploration of El-Funoun’s archives from 1979 to date including a large percentage of the Troupe’s members, old and new, with their experiences and stories. Additionally, the process examined the formation of the Troupe’s archival materials, the thinking process that evolved and took shape within the context of a society that is occupied, imprisoned, and displaced. The exploration of the archives included the opening of some old cases, sometimes painful ones, that give insights into some of the difficult stages in the history of El-Funoun. Through the individual and collective oral stories, the process transformed into an opportunity for collective reflection, through the archives, on changes in terms of the value-system and politics of the Palestinian society. The exhibition aims at opening the archives of El-Funoun troupe and focusing on the engagement of the troupe and its members with the Palestinian cultural, social, and political scene.

Curatorial Statement

Here we are, surrounded by a boundless collection, an inexhaustible, vibrant sea of memories; this archival assembly of memorabilia of the renowned Popular Dance Troupe ‘El-Funoun’ emanates and breathes its colourful history in this entire space. This compendium is full of twinkling stars, reflections and fragments. Objects that boast a past life take shape in either a video, a sea of photographs and documents, or personal items. An enormous history rises up from behind this sculptural installation. Items that have endured years of use or have been used once before storage are on display; costumes, trophies, letters, and handwritten texts, all alive despite years of storage.

This unclassified archive, exhibited, brings the backstage of emblematic performances into the spotlight. By weaving the materials of the archive into a sculptural installation, a new reality distant from the heterogeneous and typical knowledge of the Troupe is presented. This exhibition opens the door to multiple readings of an archive that has been long concealed, thus the display allows constant reinterpretations to content and form, alternating between the known and the unknown or the public and the private.

In an act of generosity and unconditional trust, the Troupe moved the archive from its domicile of two small rooms at the Friends of the Community Charitable Society, Al-Bireh, to be partially exhibited here at the A.M. Qattan Foundation. It is rather uncommon to give a second party, who is not the guardian, the right to rearrange and reorder such archival material; the permission to reproduce and reposition one’s history, to suppose and impose and to reinterpret.

This installation delivers a new image, one that is not directly defined. It may be representing a closed storage space thought to perish yet struggles to live or may it’s an image of a society sinking slowly under the pressure of colonial cataclysms, yet trying to rise against all odds, generating new moments of hope.

Exhibition Production Team

Curator: Yazid Anani
Artists: Mahdi Baraghiti, Asem Naser, Bilal Al-Khatib, Dirar Kalash
Production Team: Anas Abuoun, Dennis Sobeh
Technical Team: Dia Jubbeh, Eid Dweikat, Khaled Fanni
Special Thanks: Hafez Omar who was arrested during the preparation phase
All the members of ‘El-Funoun’ who contributed to the making of the exhibition
Sameh Asad, Huwaida Khoury-Daher

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Ramallah 90606
P.O. Box 2276, Ramallah, Palestine.
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© Photos and texts: Courtesy of A.M. Qattan Foundation

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