The heart paints what the hand perceives: The Biography of Tamam al-Akhal and Ismail Shammout


This fascinating memoir explores the personal and artistic journey of Palestinian plastic artist Tamam Al AKhal and her late husband, painter Ismail Shammout. Al Akhal and Shammout are considered founding figures in the tradition of Palestinian modern art. Their work features many iconic representations that capture the experience and sensations of the Palestinian Nakba, and both have acted as ambassadors of Palestinian art all over the world, where they exhibited paintings representing Palestinian suffering, pain and history. 

Tamam Al Akhal’s autobiography offers a rare testimony on surviving the Nakba and on establishing a Palestinian artistic vision. Furthermore, it recounts the entire history of Palestinian plastic art, from its early beginnings up to the point of maturity, all while showing how brushes and colors can illustrate and capture the struggles of the Palestinian people, including the suffering of refugees.

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About the Author(s)

Tamam Al Akhal, is considered one of the most prominent pioneers of modern Palestinian plastic art. Born in Jaffa, Palestine, in 1935, she was displaced by the Nakba and forced to relocate with her family to Beirut in 1948. In 1953 Al Akhal organized her first exhibition in Lebanon. Afterwards, she studied art at the High Institute of Fine Arts and Artistic Education, at the High Institute for Art Teachers in Cairo, between 1953 and 1957. Al Akhal met Ismail Shammout while they were both preparing to participate in the Exhibition for Palestine, launched by President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954. Al Akhal taught arts in Beirut and in Ramallah. In 1959 she married Ismail Shammout and collaborated with him on establishing and leading the PLO’s Artistic Culture Division. Both were forced to relocate to several countries because of regional wars and the ongoing Palestinian refugee problem. 

Edited by:Ghanem Bibi

Introduced by:Elias Khoury


Institute for Palestine Studies
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Language: Arabic
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