Asim Abu Shakra

Cactus, 1989
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
120 x 80 cm

Asim Abu Shakra
Born 1961, Umm al-Fahm
Died 1990

The work was executed only a year before the artist’s passing away from cancer at the young age of 28. The thorny plant is indigenous to the Palestinian countryside and is known for its great tenacity and its deep network of roots that makes it practically impossible to uproot. As such, it has become a popular symbol of Palestinian identity. Abu Shakra made the connection between the cactus as a national icon, and his own experience as an Arab living in Tel Aviv when he saw a potted cactus on the windowsill of a neighbour. That particular plant had been separated from its cluster, removed from the wilderness, and placed in a small pot, and was thus estranged. As a Palestinian studying and living in an Israeli city, the artist felt his personal story mirrored that of the cactus.

Text by Sarah Rogers and Suheyla Takesh

© Photo: Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation

A Century in Flux - photos

Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation. Sharjah Art Museum, UAE, 12 May 2018 - 31 May 2023. Curators: Salwa Mikdadi, Mandy Merzaban, Karim Sultan.

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