The Young Artist of the Year Award (YAYA)
The Young Artist of the Year Award (YAYA) is a biennial programme organised by the A.M. Qattan Foundation to encourage, support and promote young Palestinian artists. The Award has been named the Hassan Hourani Award in honour of the late Hassan Hourani, a gifted young artist and one of the winners of the first Award in 2000, who died in a tragic drowning accident in 2003.
The Young Artist of the Year Award has proven to be one of the most important activities in the visual arts field in Palestine and has had a significant impact on its cultural and artistic scene. Initiated in 2000 under the auspices of the Foundation’s Culture and Arts Programme (CAP), it is organised on a biennial basis with juries that have included local and international artists and critics such as Hussein Barghouti, Kamal Boullata, Rajie Cook, Sacha Craddock, Catherine David, Okwui Enwezor, Jean Fisher, Nicola Gray, Samia Halaby, Mona Hatoum, Emily Jacir, Adela Laidi Hanieh, Suleiman Mansour, Salwa Mikdadi, Gerardo Mosquera, Jack Persekian, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Khalil Rabah, Sameer Salameh, Tina Sherwell, Sharif Waked, and many others.
As the A.M. Qattan Foundation is a co-founder and one of the leading partners of the Qalandiya International biennial initiative, the YAYA now takes place within its framework. Therefore, the 2016 competition was organised as a curated event with a specific theme that was derived from the overall thematic concept of the 2016 Qalandiya International of re-imagining the artistic conceptualisation of “Return”.
Accordingly, the Programme announced a call for applications for project proposals in any medium within the spectrum of the visual arts, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, moving image, installations or performance. The Award is open to Palestinian artists, regardless of their place of residence, between the ages of 22 and 30. Since 2008, artists from the occupied Golan Heights have also been eligible to apply. Applicants submit applications in accordance with the guidelines and are asked to send in proposals for a work or related group of works that are to be made specifically for the Award and should not have been exhibited at any other time or in any other venue.
The nine finalists are given a period of six months for the production of their works, and are each given a grant of US$1,000 towards production costs. The final artworks are shown in a three-week exhibition in venues determined by the curator and in the context of Qalandiya International (Qi) Festival. A panel of distinguished Palestinian and internationally renowned artists, curators, commentators and professionals in the fields of culture and the visual arts are invited to meet the artists, view the exhibition and make a choice for the first, second and third prize winners, who receive a total amount of US$12,000 in prize awards.
The competition represents the start of a long term relationship between the Foundation and the artists. A comprehensive bilingual catalogue is published following each award, and the Foundation also continues its engagement with the finalists by generating opportunities for international residencies and offering support for producing and exhibiting their work both locally and internationally.
Photo credit: Omar Shala, “Horses” from Gaza Zoo project, 2020, photography
Divinations: the art of remembering the future | YAYA 2020
“I met her at one of the ‘revolution’ offices, and since I had nothing to do, I thought to have a relationship with her...” is how the second movement of Rasmi Abu Ali’s short story ‘Qit Maqsous al-Sharibain Ismahu Rayyes’ (A Cat with Clipped Whiskers called Rayyes) begins. The story, which appeared in Al-Adab magazine in 1977, depicts a brief relationship between a Palestinian, whose official profession is ‘resistance fighter’, as revealed in his identification papers at a checkpoint, a Swiss journalist and a street cat. The relationship evolves in Beirut in the 1970s during the peak of the Palestinian ‘revolution’, where the latter and its terminology, and all the Palestinian ‘work tools’, appear as a dull background. The story focused on the multiple complex dimensions of a revolutionary character, including their silly, nihilistic and absurd behaviours, and subsequently shattering the readymade idealistic, almost caricature-like depictions in literature at the time of the revolutionary as someone who is serious and always ready to carry on the anti-colonial struggle and fight. The story, in that sense, revolutionised the image of the revolutionary and the revolution as such, by establishing as its base human desires and life itself.
For Abu Ali, writing the story was, in part, an attempt to correct the ‘revolution’ in politics, thought and culture by turning the attention to the margins of that revolution, which the revolutionaries disavowed and refused to recognise. The very publication of the story in Al-Adab, a Lebanese magazine, indicates that there were works that could not be welcomed into the designated Palestinian revolutionary culture of that period. Initially, Abu Ali submitted the story to the Palestinian Affairs magazine, to its editor-in-chief Mahmoud Darwish, who expressed his admiration for the text, saying it was one of the ten most beautiful short stories he had read in his life but that he could not publish it in a serious political magazine like Palestinian Affairs.
Abu Ali’s attempts to recognise and celebrate the marginal were not exhausted. Two years after the publication of ‘Qit Maqsous al-Sharibain’, he issued, with Tunisian writer Safi Said, The Funerary Manifesto No. 0 for Art, Work and Play in an effort to return to the ‘Communist Dream’ and to Marx as a poet. This was followed by launching the magazine Al-Rasif 81 (Sidewalk 81) with Palestinian poet Ali Fouda and other Arab writers and poets, who called themselves al-Rasifiyeen or the ‘sidewalkers’. In general, al-Rasifiyeen aspired to revolutionise the revolution through culture; they wanted to start a cultural and intellectual protest movement on the margins of the Palestinian struggle and liberation organisations which, in the words of Abu Ali “were governed by a revolutionary bureaucracy, similar to the bureaucracies of Arab regimes”. In a later testimonial on his motives behind creating Rasif 81 and eventually turning to poetry, Abu Ali writes:
I had a creative plan; to try and shatter the Palestinian creative superstructure, and by doing so, to open the way to another revolutionary culture that I aspired to. At that time I considered the Palestinian culture, and thus the Palestinian behavior, to be very conservative. I wanted to revolutionize the revolution. And here the role of poetry emerged as a daily tactical fast weapon; more like a creative guerrilla war of ‘Hit and Run!’ I was waging a cultural guerrilla war with short poems...
I also believed in the theory of ‘chain detonation’ by means of using different shocking words that kind of created a detonation in the reader’s mind, and subsequently led to a change in reality.
On the whole, Abu Ali continued to define Rasif 81 as “the movement of the marginalized; those who are marginalized in the present, or who will be marginalized in the future,” noting that “the sidewalk is, to some extent, widening day after day”. (As a matter of fact, he announced in the first issue of the magazine that “there is no distance between me and the sidewalk, for I am the sidewalk”).
The first issue of Rasif 81 was generally received with excitement in the literary and cultural circles in Beirut. Refraining from naming an editor-in-chief made readers also realise that this was a revolutionary magazine, yet with a vocabulary and a style different from the ones they are familiar with. That first issue thus generated a new semi avant-garde mood. However, the second issue was barely published when the Israeli military began its invasion of Beirut in 1982. Ali Fouda was killed in a shelling, and the rest of those behind the magazine were scattered, leading it to be discontinued. Abu Ali himself eventually reached Amman, where he continued to inhabit and guard the margins until his death in early 2020.
Meanwhile, as in many other places, the adopting of neoliberal economic policies for building the alleged Palestinian State was at its height. Already in 2007, the Palestinian ‘revolution’ and liberation dream was being steered into a neoliberal societal restructuring, engineering the emergence of new forms of spatial arrangements that continue to coincide with the Israeli State and the military practices of oppression in Palestine, and are in fact an outcome of the latter. Such new spatial forms have emerged, for instance, in the shape of exclusive residential areas and housing projects, and high-end business towers, offering consumerist concepts of citizenship and a new vision and version of Palestinianity.
In view of these shifts, one cannot avoid recalling Abu Ali’s 1977 short story “Qit Maqsous al-Sharibain” as a prediction of the life Palestinians may be living today, yet not in the margins and as a revolutionary act but in the centre and as a conservative way of life. Nihilism, absurdity and escapism are presently the tools neoliberalism has provided for neutralising the revolutionaries. As such, it could be said, the bleakness at the centre of our present life was a future dreamed by a marginalised revolutionary past.
As Abu Ali’s legacy remains haunting in the present, we are compelled to reread his texts and cultural acts while asking: How can we, under such circumstances and with such realisations, imagine a future which would resist becoming a victim to a conservative dream of liberation that is being nurtured in the present?
It is apparent today that Palestine as a liberation idea, shaped by decades of struggle, resistance and artistic creation by Palestinians, and non-Palestinians as well, has been a subject of continuous dismantlement. Therefore, there is a necessity for a responsible reshaping and reconstructing of the definitions of Palestine and the Palestinians in their struggles and revolutions anew – as a position for the objection of oppression and coercion, and as a basis for imagining a new form of togetherness that exceeds any imposed national, ethnic or geographical boundaries and subsequently pave the way for imagining human emancipation per se. We ask: What space can we imagine or create inspired by all the “No’s” Palestinians continue to say, and all the proposals they continue to reject? How to consider Palestinianity as a witness position and a perspective that can set the bases for a world bound by mutual care, rather than by a nationalistic understanding? At this instance, we proceed to ask the practical question: What would a Palestinian expect from others so that her or his life becomes liveable? And what would a Palestinian expect from her or himself so that the lives of others become liveable?
Imagination and resistance are of exceptional significance to addressing these questions, as well to thinking how to counter and subvert the present manifestations of oppression also evident in the stagnation of political imagination, and the continuous dismemberment of societies based on cultural, economic, religious and spatial criteria, among others.
The field of culture, as Abu Ali and the sidewalkers suggested more than four decades ago, can be a leading domain in providing the tools required to articulate, critique and question the unbounded violence that aims to perpetually dehumanise us. At the same time, culture can effectively be one of the main means in the process of instigating our imagination to counter the ongoing turmoils, and in presenting us with visions for and alternative futures. Therefore, it is critical that cultural practitioners, academics, artists and thinkers active in the present engage in the method of divination in order to come up with alternative visions for a more just future.
In launching the project Divinations: the art of remembering the future, the A.M. Qattan Foundation seeks to address these questions, along with other relevant ones. Accordingly, we call on artists, intellectuals, academics, curators, art historians and critics, and especially those who have participated in past editions of the Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year Award (YAYA) programme, to share their visions of a future that effectively subvert the present conditions of human deprivation to which many are being subjected worldwide within current local, regional and global political and social leanings.
Unlike the previous 10 editions of YAYA, this one will be devoted to imagining the future, with all its possibilities, risks and opportunities, through instigating a series of modules. Modules are a process of learning and research that can include, but not be limited to, a series of workshops, interventions, talks, walks, courses, seminars, etc, and involving a group of participants. The outcomes will be showcased, thoroughly discussed and synthesized, in order to contemplate the future and to reimagine the YAYA as a fresh intervention that can sustain its significance within the visual art scene in Palestine and beyond for years to come.
Thus, the project invites proposals for an imagining of the future of Palestine, and the possibilities and potentials the Palestinian experience can offer to all humans, while relying on the predictions of new cultural values and aesthetics. We seek, additionally, to question the role of culture in forming the future, based on current cultural trends of the deprivations of the political conditions and the normalisation of violent practices of control and conservatism. The project especially welcomes proposals that are investigative in nature and contain explicating questions on the axiological future of culture and the visual arts, and the direction and method of cultural work, including working collaboratively and towards a desired togetherness. Proposals are also welcome from applicants who intend to work in art spaces and in collaboration with initiatives across Palestine, or in direct conversations with non-artists.
A conference is planned for the last quarter of 2021 and is expected to synthesise the experiences and outcomes of a number of selected interventions within the Divinations: The Art of Remembering the Future project, and which are important to contemplating the role of cultural institutions, including the A.M. Qattan Foundation in the future, and to the consideration of other directions and possibilities of art events such as the YAYA.
To read the full story of "A Cat with Cut Whiskers called Rayyes" please click here
 Rasmi Abu Ali, “Qit Maqsous al-Sharibain Ismahu Rayyes”, Beirut: Al-Adab Magazine, vol. 5-6, May 1977. [Online 9 January 2020]: https://archive.alsharekh.org/Articles/255/20303/460752
 Abdo Wazen, “Rasmi Abu Ali, a creator in the heart of the Palestinian literature, and on its margins”, Beirut: Independent Arabia, 9 Jan, 2020. [Online 24 March 2020]: https://www.independentarabia.com/node/85301/ثقافة/رسمي-أبو-علي-مبدع-في-قلب-الادب-الفلسطيني-وعلى-هامشه
 Hussein bin Hamza, “Rasmi Abu Ali on the sidewalk of Beirut”, Beirut: al-Akhbar newspaper, 6 Jan 2011. [Online 18 March 2020]: https://al-akhbar.com/Last_Page/81561
 Rasmi Abu Ali, ‘My first book’, Beirut: al-Akhbar, Kalimat Supplement, 5 Dec, 2014.
 Almodon, “The departure of Rasmi Abu Ali”, 9 Jan, 2020. [Online 18 March 2020]: https://www.almodon.com/culture/رحيل-رسمي-أبو-علي-منظر-الهامشية-في-زمن-الثورة
 Al-Arabi al-Jadid, “Rasmi Abu Ali, the ends at that sidwalk”, 9 Jan. 2020. [Online 20 March 2020]: https://www.alaraby.co.uk/culture/رسمي-أبو-علي-نهايات-عند-ذاك-الرصيف
We, the five jury members, are very honoured to be on the jury of the 2018 Young Artist of the Year Award. Over the course of the past 18 years, the YAYA award has become one of the most celebrated and sustainable cultural events in Palestine.
We wish to warmly thank the A. M. Qattan Foundation for inviting us to avail of this welcome opportunity to come to Palestine and for trusting us with this responsible task. We are particularly grateful for the support and assistance of Nisreen Naffa, Lamis Shalaldeh, Mahmoud Abu Hashhash and Yazid Anani.
We wish to especially thank Emily Jacir for her extraordinary efforts in curating this show: for creating a safe, inspiring situation for the artists to come together and share ideas, using this platform to cultivate a sense of community that, we hope, will have long term value for them. Together with Emily, the ten artists have created a carefully considered and coherent exhibition.
We were impressed by the overall high quality of the works and the various dynamic trajectories that could be followed at different points – especially taking into consideration the very different backgrounds of the artists, living and working under very different conditions in Palestine and throughout the Palestinian diaspora.
In a wide variety of media, and through the individual voices of these artists, a set of diverse narratives unfolded, connecting personal stories with the pressing questions of Palestine and the postcolonial, globalised and digitalised world. The works represent distinctive, individual artistic sensibilities, but they also show intriguing points of connection.
We, as jurors, might evaluate and connect those narratives differently, but we want to emphasise – especially those of us who came to Palestine for the first time on this occasion – that we learned a great deal about the situation here from each of these artists.
We were lucky to have been given the chance to talk to seven of them in person in front of their works. Three artists currently living in the diaspora (in the US and Europe) were not able to come to Palestine, but at least we could connect with them via digital communication. This mixture of different possibilities of encounter and conversation is itself an inevitable issue in reflecting on the conditions of contemporary Palestinian art.
Given the impressive range of work that had been shortlisted, it was a challenge to reduce that list to a small number of prize-winners, and needless to say this was not possible without compromise. Although each position has its distinguished qualities and deserves a special mention, we decided to keep to the first, second and third prize places, but we took the liberty of dividing one prize into two.
Making our announcements in reverse order, we award the Third Prize to Ola Zaitoun’s Necrosis. We were moved by the artist’s bravery to put intimate moments of family life and her personal vulnerability on display, and by her ability to find a compelling balance between meticulous execution, using the unforgiving medium of the ball-point pen, and a more destructive impulse to distort and erase the personal features of depicted characters, smudging their faces with gold paint (a medium that carries many cultural and historical associations, from make-up to death masks), and presenting the resulting pictures within commercially commonplace gold frames. The domestic familiarity of the display format is combined with more anxious and unsettling content.
Following a long discussion, the jury decided to give the second prize to two artists who respond to different aspects of Palestinian reality in very different ways and from significantly different positions. Our second prize goes equally to Firas Shehadeh and Dima Srouji.
The work of Firas Shehadeh is based on personal experience as a refugee between Jordan and Palestine. In his absorbing film Never Here Cool Memories, Firas has found a compelling form of audiovisual expression with which to trace experiences of displacement and to contemplate the vexed issue of the right to return, exploring imagined memory and transgenerational trauma through text and images. His filmic style is richly poetic in its means of addressing the political complexities of being a Palestinian refugee. Subtly staging his gallery intervention, Firas puts the viewer in a position to reflect on landscape and its accessibility, and on stillness and movement as conditions that are not always chosen voluntarily.
Dima Srouji has also produced work that is concerned with the representation of the politics of landscape. Although mainly practising within the field of architecture, Dima works in an experimental mode entirely appropriate to the exhibition. Her presentation, entitled The Rule of Superposition, dually focusing on the mapping of the city of Jerusalem and its archaeological excavation, is an exploration of the role of the map in the assertion of colonial power. Her striking minimal structure – combining survey models of sites in Jerusalem – is an inventive sculptural attempt to interrogate cartographic politics and regimes of visibility, inviting us to both occupy the raised viewing position of the coloniser while also studying landscape ‘from below’.
In choosing the first prize for the 2018 YAYA award, there was considerable discussion – but our choice of winner is one who, in different ways, impressed all of the jury members. The winner of the 2018 prize is Safaa Khateeb. Safaa’s project, The Braids Rebellion, was commended by the judges for both its technical and conceptual sophistication. It is exceptional, striking work, employing the unusual practice of scan photography in a rigorous and challenging manner. Principally, however, it was Safaa’s profound and affecting achievement in creating an oblique form of aesthetic and political representation that impressed the jury. By picturing braids of hair donated to a breast cancer campaign by incarcerated Palestinian women (in February 2017), Safaa focused on an act of human generosity and a form of solidarity between prison life and the outside world. The resulting photographic installation has a concentrated, pared-back aesthetic intensity that is nonetheless powerful in its evocation of resistance and empowerment.
Safaa is to be congratulated for her outstanding contribution to YAYA 2018 – and we wish to congratulate all four of the prize-winners in the belief that the YAYA serves as both a symbolic and a practical tool of empowerment at the beginning of their careers. We strongly believe, however, that participation in the exhibition We Shall Be Monsters is a great, empowering achievement for everyone involved – and we keenly look forward to following the future endeavours of all ten participating artists.
Sandi Hilal, Declan Long, Eva Scharrer, Ahlam Shibli, Jorge Tacla
Rarely is a prize so welcomed, anticipated and celebrated as it is here. This is a testimony to the meaning and significance of the Young Artist of the Year Award for Palestinian artists, and its importance for dreams, aspirations and possibilities. The jury would first like to commend the Qattan Foundation for their constant efforts to bring the far, wide and varied Palestinian geographies and artistic practices together, and for creating opportunities for artists.
We would also like to congratulate the curator, Nat Muller, for her engagement, her hands-on approach, and her ability to work closely with artists of different realities, opportunities, accessibilities and mobilities – and who have different equalities of opportunities. This fact is reflected in the exhibition.
With this in mind, the jury faced a challenging task for several reasons. Firstly, the constraints placed on the YAYA award itself: the difficulty the artists faced of working with two specific themes, the Qalandiya International one of This Sea Is Mine, and the curatorial theme Pattern Recognition. And secondly, a curatorial process which in some cases resulted in presentations that were perhaps not those the artists had originally privileged. And the greatest challenge of all: the immobility that some of the laureates are limited by: that is, that one artist is once again unable to overcome the Gaza blockade to be here with us, while another other has fled from Syria to Algeria.
Taking these points into account, we made our decisions on the basis of the works exhibited in the exhibition of the 2016 YAYA Award, and on the potential that we see in the artists to develop their practices.
The jury decided to award the Third Prize to Asma Ghanem for her sonic venture, ‘Homeland Is…’ The jury thought the artist challenged her own practice by breaking out into a new medium and experimenting in territories outside her comfort zone. The jury was impressed by the idea to render history by means of sound, by the artist’s desire to actively engage the public, and her translation of the score as rhythmical mapping. We are awarding this prize to encourage the artist to continue to pursue this avenue and to delve even deeper into historical research, to engage more actively in field work, and in experimentation with sound synthesis.
The Second Prize is awarded to Somar Sallam for her video work Disillusioned Construction. The jury was impressed by the strong associative power of the work, and its ability to convey loss and the vicious cycle of construction–reconstruction–destruction that is part of the experience of settlement and resettlement, by means of a language that fuses the sculptural, the corporeal, the performative and the filmic, with a profound economy of means. The work is a result of both domestic conditions and means of production, testifying to the fact that art can happen even when scarcity is the norm.
The First Prize is unanimously awarded to Inas Halabi for her video work Mnemosyne, which revisits a scar on her grandfather’s forehead. In the video Halabi individually asks members of her extended family to recite the story behind the scar. What amounts is a rich, sometimes contradictory, mosaic of varying stories that point to the relativity and instability of memory. Each retelling has slight differences and nuances to the point that one uncle enacts it in the first person. During the filming, the narration is interrupted when some of the family members pause to take a sip of water – a symbolic reference to Lethe, the trap of forgetting. With minimal means, Inas Halabi was able to deconstruct official narratives and work instead with the permeability of histories. She subverts the theme of repetition and return – a theme often recycled in contemporary Palestinian art – in a refreshing, dispassionate and truly objective way, by avoiding the clichés of victimisation, and the spectacularisation of trauma.
Before we congratulate and celebrate the artists, we have to mention that the decision-making process was darkened by the terrible accident that occurred yesterday, while we were deliberating, in the construction site directly adjacent to offices of the Qattan Foundation. Tragically, two workers were killed while others were injured when the scaffolding suddenly collapsed. Our thoughts go out to the families of the victims.
Finally, we would like to point out that while research is an integral component of the YAYA process, the jury feels, in the case of all the artists, it was not developed as far as it could have been. With the desire to constructively contribute to the potential and development of the prize, the jury would like to recommend that artists are allowed more time for this process. We would also like to encourage the artists to dig deeper into the research process – whether material, conceptual, or historical – and enrich their artistic practice with the dialogues that the work instigates.
After the seven editions of the Award since 2000, and in recognition of the significant changes and developments in contemporary art and cultural practice over those fourteen years – both regionally and internationally – YAYA 2014 will be approached differently. Unlike previous editions, a curator is being appointed to design the entire process, both conceptually and in practice, that will begin with the call for submission and conclude with the final exhibition.
The final exhibition will be part of the Qalandiya International (QI) 2014 events. Therefore, within QI 2014’s overall thematic framework of “Archive”, artists applying for the YAYA 2014 are requested to submit proposals for projects that will respond to the curatorial concept as set out below. All applicants are expected to respond to this. Any submissions that do not do so will not be considered.
The curatorial concept at the base of this year’s award is the self-historisation and archival methodology. Self-historisation is a strategy assumed by artists to manage their history in situations when the act of writing and analyzing history is not being led by institutions. It is a way for the artists to assume responsibility and personally take control of narrative in their own context.
The idea stands on the fact that many different narratives are continually forgotten, excluded or forbidden by those engaged in the act of writing history. Even assuming the limits of subjectivity in the act of writing and archiving history, this act can be of great relevance to re-introduce missing links of a picture that would otherwise remain fragmentary.
Artists’ practices could include, for example, found material connected with personal or official (/historical) archives, ephemera or immaterial anecdotes. Artists are invited to experiment with different formats to present any documentation, or found and archival material. By entering this process, they become co-producers of the discourse/narrative they choose
To download the full curatorial concept please click here.
The Curator and the Programme invite artists to submit proposals that are in response to these ideas. Applicants should be between 22 and 30 years old at the time of submission (i.e. born between January 1st, 1984 and December 31st, 1991), and should be of Palestinian origin regardless of place of residence. Applicants may also be from the Golan Heights. The proposed artwork must be conceived and produced exclusively for YAYA 2014, and should not under any circumstances be exhibited before the Award exhibition.
The specialised selection committee, including the curator, will review the proposals and select 10 finalists. Decisions will be based on the perceived excellence, commitment, innovation, originality and creativity in the proposals.
The 10 finalists will be given a period of 6 months for the production of their works, which will then be submitted for the final stages of the Award. During these 6 months the artists are expected to be in communication regularly with the curator, who will, in conversation with the finalists, lay out a work plan of the 6 month period. The final artworks will be shown in a 3 week exhibition as part of Qalandiya International (Qi) in October 2014.
Each finalist will be given a grant of $1,000 USD towards production costs. A total of $12,000 USD in prize awards will be awarded to three winners of the YAYA 2014 by a distinguished Jury.
The Young Artist of the Year Award, which is named after the late artist Hassan Hourani, is considered one of the most important events in the Palestinian art scene. Since 2000, it has been organised every two years and has invited renowned artists, critics and curators – such as Mona Hatoum, Okwui Enwezor, Suleiman Mansour, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jack Persekian, Sasha Craddock, Sharif Waked, Khalil Rabah and Gerardo Mosquera – to act as Jury members.