Building a positive national identity through art and design


DUBAI – One of the biggest Palestinian cultural events ever staged is coming to Dubai. Through week-long exhibitions of art and design, as well as music, theatre, dance, hip hop, poetry, comedy and film, THIS IS PALESTINE shows the world a side of Palestine rarely seen.

Under the Patronage of H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, the festival features more than 200 works of visual art, photography and design, on display and up for sale. They include one of the most iconic paintings in the Arab world, Jamal Al-Mahamel.

Alongside the exhibitions is a line-up of documentary films and world-class performers, including musical group Turab, stand-up comedian Maysoon Zayid, actress Najla Said and hip hop artist Boikutt, many of them performing in Dubai for the first time. UAE premiers of feature-length films will be viewed on the largest screen in the Middle East and Asia (see full list of exhibitions, performances and films below).

THIS IS PALESTINE is put on by, the premiere e-commerce portal for Arab artists and designers, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, as part of the 2014 UN International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

“Culture is one of the most central pillars of development,” said Sayed Aqa, UN Resident Coordinator in the UAE. “Not only is this event an emblematic example of the new paradigm of development that focuses on empowerment rather than assistance, but it is also a great way for us to commemorate the United Nations 2014 Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”

“The narrative about Palestine in the media is often linked to violence, occupation and victimhood,” said Ehab Shanti, CEO and founder of “People rarely hear about the tremendous cultural vitality among the Palestinian people. This event aims to show a different side of Palestine to the world.  We hope it will be a stepping stone to building a positive national brand. Art has the power to change reality.”

Renowned Palestinian artist Suleiman Mansour has repainted his seminal work Jamal Al-Mahamel, which portrays a porter carrying Jerusalem on his back, after the original was destroyed in the 1980s.

“The painting of Jamal Al-Mahamel represents the essence of my artistic journey over the past 50 years,” Mr. Mansour said. “More than any other work I have painted, it is emblematic of my identity, my concerns, my struggles and the centrality of Jerusalem to my life.”

For many of the other artists participating in the festival, this event presents an opportunity to showcase their works to the outside world.

“Our lives aren’t only blood and destruction. I like to show that under the warplanes, there is love too,” says Dina Mattar, a 29-year-old painter who lives in a refugee camp in Gaza and is already being compared to the legendary Joan Miró.

The event offers a creative solution to badly-needed job creation in the Arab world.  Palestinian artists and designers face major logistical challenges in promoting their work. Empowering them can open up career opportunities for thousands of young Palestinians, helping meet the need for 100 million new jobs in the Arab world over the next decade and contributing to long-term development in the region.

THIS IS PALESTINE takes place March 12-19 in Dubai’s Meydan Theatre, beginning with the inauguration of exhibitions and Gala Dinner on March 12.


For tickets, please visit THIS IS PALESTINE:

On its website

On Facebook

At its fundraising site


Exhibitions open noon-10pm every day:

  • Jamal Al-Mahamel (Camel of Burdens), one of the most iconic paintings in the Arab world, as well as 25 works of art by the early generation of renowned Palestinian artists
  • The stunning photography exhibit Tracing the Spirit of Jesus, which documents award-winning photographer Abdulrahim Al Arjan’s year-long journey through the architectural and natural landmarks central to the life story of Christ, highlighting the peaceful co-existence of Islam and Christianity.
  • Ground-breaking work by emerging painters, photographers, filmmakers and video artists from Gaza
  • A gallery of furniture, jewelry, fashion and accessories by established designers in the diaspora


Events throughout the week:

  • Palestinian band Turab, featuring lead singer, pianist and ‘oud player Basel Zayed  
  • Actress Najla Edward Said, performing excerpts from her one-woman off-Broadway play Palestine
  • Bethlehem’s Diyar Dance Theatre, performing “Out of Place”, inspired by the legendary Edward Said
  • Panel discussion on the role of the arts in rebranding the Palestinian national identity
  • An evening of hip hop (Ledr P, Boikutt, Shadia Mansour), poetry (Farah Chamma, Hind Shoufani, Dana Dajani) and “resistance soul” (the band 47 Soul)
  • Stand-up comedy with Amer Zahr and Maysoon Zayid
  • Screenings of Jaffa My City, Goal Dreams, (No) Laughing Matter and Mars at Sunrise followed by Q&As with the film directors.


For further information, please contact in Dubai:

Ehab Shanti                                                                  Heba Aly

CEO of                                                    Communications Manager                                                              is both a physical and virtual exposition of Arab art and design: a common space that allows the public to purchase from and interact with the design and art community in the Arab world. Its mandate is not only to empower Arab artists and designers, but also to serve as a catalyst for creating a creative economy in which their tremendous achievements can thrive. Since its launch in 2012, has already become the premier initiative for the preservation and development of Arab art and design, with over 500 registered artists (320 published), 3,000 works, 28,000 pages of content, and 28,000 fans on Facebook. For more information, visit: