Return of the Soul - The Nakbah Project (4 stars)

This article is from 2008

Return of the Soul - The Nakbah Project

A secret persecution preserved in wax

Scottish based painter, theatre designer and now multimedia artist Jane Frere revisits the Nakbah, the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people in 1948 when the newly UN-sanctioned nation of Israel expropriated ‘lebensraum’ (living room) through violent ethnic cleansing.

Four years in the making, this exhibition has come about through a combination of workshop programmes in Ramallah and Jerusalem refugee camps, testimonials from those who survived the 1948 massacres and some hard-learned polemic (this project began in a Polish concentration camp). This is a work rooted in the refugee experience and as such it is both moving and tragic.

In the first room, a large industrial white painted space, small wax figures hang from the ceiling on nylon. All facing the same way, they seem to be on some kind of pilgrimage and their passage appears to be an undulating one. Recreated from the figures originally workshopped in the camps, this remarkable installation (that brings to mind the naïve drawings in The Good News Bible pressings of the 1960s and 70s) transcends both the political and the humanitarian to something more elemental and paradoxical (where is the wax from? Can reconstituted candles still be considered iconographic?).

The other small room contains two projections, one of abstract-style photographs of the wax figures and the other of the men and women who gave testimonials of their tragic experiences, the audio recordings of which whisper around the room. Though seemingly slight, this admirable exhibition sheds light on a little known terrorisation programme that must not be repeated.

WASPS, Patriothall Studios, 226 7126, until Mon 18 Aug, noon-6pm, free.

Return of the Soul - The Nakbah Project

  • 4 stars

Featuring thousands of tiny figures held in limbo, this installation by Jane Frere is the outcome of an 8-month residency in East Jerusalem. The work is sombre reflection upon the consequences of a never-to-be-forgotten tragedy in Europe that cast the Palestinian people into purgatory, sowing the seeds of perpetual unrest…


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