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Gaza’s Silk Devastation: Dana Awartani’s Installation

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Palestinian-Saudi artist Dana Awartani made her debut at the Venice Art Biennale 2024 with an expressive installation titled “Come, let me heal your wounds. Let me mend your broken bones.” The installation, created with darning on medicinally dyed silk, explores the ongoing destruction of historical and cultural sites in the Arab world due to war and terrorism.

For this exhibition, Awartani utilized her deep knowledge of indigenous craftsmanship from the Middle East and India. She sought the wisdom of artisans to enrich her work, creating a powerful commentary on the mass destruction witnessed in Gaza since last October. The bombings and bulldozers flattening homes, hospitals, and places of worship are visually translated through suspended yellow and red fabric, marked with holes torn across the yards of silk.

Awartani’s use of darning, a fading practice compared to patchwork, adds an intimate and undervalued touch to her work. Each gash is tenderly darned, symbolizing a gesture of healing. The resulting scars, both physical and emotional, left behind in the real world, serve as a poignant reminder of the ongoing devastation in Gaza. The fabric is dipped in herb and spice-based natural dyes with medicinal value, drawing on the sacred healing properties embedded in traditional textile dyeing practices.

The installation is part of the Biennale’s main exhibition, “Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere,” at the Arsenale. Awartani’s work invites viewers to reflect on the impact of war and terrorism on communities and cultures, highlighting the importance of healing and resilience in the face of devastation.

Dana Awartani’s multidisciplinary approach to art and design is evident in her use of traditional techniques and materials to create contemporary and thought-provoking installations. Her work serves as a bridge between past and present, connecting ancient traditions with contemporary issues. Through her art, Awartani offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Arab world, inviting viewers to engage with its history and challenges in a meaningful way.

Awartani’s collaboration with Cloud and designer Sabine Marcelis demonstrates the power of multidisciplinary design studios to create impactful and immersive experiences. By combining their expertise in architecture, design, and art, Cloud and Marcelis were able to create a visually stunning and emotionally resonant installation that captures the essence of Gaza’s devastation. This collaboration highlights the potential of multidisciplinary design studios to address complex social and cultural issues through art and design.

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