Sliman Mansour

I Ishmael, Palestine, 1996

Mud on wooden door

Courtesy of private collection, Germany

Like clay in the hands of the potter, Sliman Mansour uses the mash of sand and mud cracking in the desert heat to revive the mythical figure of Ismail (Ishmael) and unite with him and with the land of this place. A series of self-portraits he has created over the years reveals this hidden narrative behind his figure, or close to it. This reappears in several versions of his “I am Ismael” clay panels. Traditionally, the tragic and symbolically laden story of expelling Hagar and her son Ishmael into the desert denotes the beginning of the Arab nation. The relief “I am Ismail” is shaped like an ancient tombstone commemorating Ismail through his relation to the land, to the dust and ashes, to the sand and to the place to which he was exiled. This is a story of pride and sorrow akin to the artist, who points through his work to the similarity between his and Ismail’s fate.