image copyright The Qattan Foundation
Last Friday's edition of Haaretz featured a very interesting article by Yitzhak Laor on the young artist Randa Mdah. Mdah was born in the Golan Heights and studied art in Damascus, Syria. Laor and his friend traveled to Ramallah to see her work, which is currently on exhibit at the Al-Mahata Gallery.
Our hosts show us Mdah's work, "Puppet Theater," which is in a back room of the gallery. Photos cannot convey its full power. The wall bears a 2- by 3-meter polyester relief, next to three full-sized figures representing Arabs, bound by ropes to the ceiling. Mdah says [John] Berger thought the thick ropes supporting the marionettes were unnecessary. She insisted; he was persuaded, she says. Why did she insist? Because human beings are bound here to a routine, she explains, and gradually lose their identity amid the power game between the occupation, the poverty, the religious and the political--among other forces.
The Qattan Foundation named Mdah one of twelve "Young Artists of the Year" for 2008. The foundation's website includes a photograph of a detail from "Puppet Theater," which I included above. I haven't been able to locate more images of Mdah's work, though I would very much like to. She observes: "...I am confident that most objects, people and events are driven by a force beyond their nature. I see my surroundings as a theatre of rod puppets, with tight ropes controlling their movement at times and choosing their destiny at others. Trying to break free from the puppet inside me, I present this work as an attempt to capture reality."