Portalis Collaborator Interview – Nada Khartabil

Nada smiling at the camera

What influences did you draw on for this project?

As a way to approach creating new work for Portalis, I revisited the tales and stories from the Quran that I was told as a child. Coming from a Muslim background we listened to tales like, ‘The Cave of Seven Sleepers’, ‘The Revelation of the Quran’ and, ‘The Spider and the Cave’. Other influences for this exhibition came from exploring my identity and heritage as a Palestinian and the impact and difficulties faced from being expelled from my homeland.

What processes did you use in your work?

For my process I generally focus on the message I want to communicate, in a way that might educate, influence, inspire and resonate. My work generally revolves around my identity and heritage, being Palestinian and Muslim.

Nada pushing keys into clay

Did you try new approaches for this exhibition that led to new discoveries?

Within this exhibition I introduced aspects of Islamic belief which has been something that I have been planning to introduce. This was a perfect opportunity to begin this journey. Making some of the work allowed me to be explorative in how I use materials, and to make larger scale plaster slabs that I had not done so previously in my practice. When I constructed the web for قصة العنكبوت (The story of the spider), I found weaving the yarn to be therapeutic as a new technique, and this might be something I develop in future works.

What feelings or meanings do you imagine your work conveys?

What each work conveys depends on how the viewer approaches the work and what they take from the titles. Viewers will interpret something different according to their views and outlook. I hope قصة العنكبوت (The story of the spider) intrigues people with thoughts of what the web might represent. The rocks and plaster-casts in Part of Me, Palestine may illuminate the importance of heritage in someone’s identity, but also educate and raise awareness about events in Palestine. Within my work Fragments of Time, I hope the plaster tiles evoke archaeology whilst implying trauma and frustration resulting from historical and current events in Palestine. They also represent broken parts separated and then placed together in a different time and form.

a sculpture made of plaster with keys embedded

What are you hoping to convey in the title of your work?

For the title قصة العنكبوت (The story of the spider) I wanted to keep it simple – a title with a storybook feel, similar to stories told to me during childhood. The rocks I use in Part of Me, Palestine, are special to me and my heritage - I see them as an extension of my identity; they bond the land to me, and this is the thought behind the title of this work. For Fragments of Time, the plaster slabs can be presented individually or as a group which is why they are also individually titled too.

How does your work for Portalis relate to your past work?

It relates to past work in which I explored my identity and heritage as key factors that make and define me as an individual. The work I made for Portalis is a move towards a new type of work and exploration of my practice.

a rock

Will this project influence some aspect of your future practice? If so, what and how?

For this exhibition I looked at Islamic beliefs, stories and tales from the Quran. This will influence my future practice whilst I simultaneously tried new approaches to making work. It’s a way to integrate my Palestinian heritage and identity, and something I hope to explore further.

plaster slabs

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