Returning to the roots A reading in the exhibition of Ahmed Canaan A’NAT

Rose Shomali

first visit to Nazareth was connected to the exhibition of the artist “Ahmad Canaan”, I went there to look for the roots of the family in Nazareth, but I found myself meeting with


My first visit to Nazareth was connected to the exhibition of the artist “Ahmad Canaan”, I went there to look for the roots of the family in Nazareth, but I found myself meeting with my roots in the history.

It was raining outside, but despite the rain, there were a large number of those who appreciate art. Although the speeches praised about the ability of the artist, and the greatness of his art, remained the conservative Ahmed Canaan on his humility, and simplicity, it could be read in his red shy face.


The exhibition of Ahmed Canaan” was not the first, but was the eighth individual one, in addition to his involvement in more than thirty exhibitions collectively.

 The exhibition was entitled “A’NAT”, inspired from the myth of Canaanite Goddess “A’NAT” and from the ancient Arab civilization. It must be his family name that has played a role in the return to the roots, where he draws symbols from the past and uses them as topics for his present arts.

 Two sets of colors, features the works of Ahmed Canaan, violet blue and red orange: cold and warm, two colors where the life flows in between and renews. They rhyme in visible balance at one plate,at the level of the entire work - they are intermarried heaven and earth, men and women, and the permanent dialogue between the poles.

 Blue violet lived in his first impact of the place. Old houses in ‘Beit Hanina’ town - near Jerusalem - captured him with their colored windows. In A’nata town - near Jerusalem -, where the Canaanite ruins, he applies the legend of “A’NAT” in his brush and Chisel. They overlap with the houses of square format, and colored planetariums.

 There on the top of the beautiful mountains, the Israeli settlement of “Enatut” was constructed, in order to rob the place originality and name.

Due to Ahmad Canaan he returned to his roots, to “Canaan” and has inspired the symbols of the legend for his topics. “A’NAT” which represents the richness and fertility has become a repeated symbol in his paintings. “A’NAT”, goddess of Agriculture occupies a full plate, sometimes stands tall with a stick in the hand; the symbol of power, other times becomes a decorative unity, which is repeated in many of the paintings and figures.

 In “A’NAT” temple, there is a balance between the two sets of colors, blue is a violet background imprecations and the front area is orange color to the impending harvest. “A’NAT” stands without face, as if the goddess is forbidden to disclose her face.

“A’NAT” stands high, with a stick in the hand, which is the symbol of power, the  horizontal lines of Almashatih <oasis wood>(the wood plates) results in protracted  shape and stands high and visible, in the frame of the wall, similar and vary in concert formality and soft colors.

 “A’NAT” is repeated as a unity of a recurrence in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine) as its Lady, and becomes the warmth that brightens on its coldest ground and makes it fertile.

“A’NAT”, the ‘earth’ and all what adds to the richness of the land is the subject of Canaan’s arts, therefore Canaan sketches the plains and figures them with colors of the land soil, in the form of patterns and lines entertain with shade structures, when you touch the surface with your figure, you feel the texture and softness as the emergence of lines and trends.

 Canaan embodies farming and the peasant, the plow, treadmill, the tools used by the peasants picks up the moment in the evolution of agriculture and the richness of the earth, Perhaps the iron, wood, stone, are sincere expressions of the nature of the tools of farmer and makes connections with the land, just as “A’NAT” shows its hardness in wood and metal, such rigidity was associated with farming and land.

As the plow and treadmill reflect a moment in the evolution of agriculture, thus also reflect the musical instruments, prayers for rain, and the selection of colors to prescribe a phase in the history of civilization.

            In his paintings, Canaan used oil colors, paints them in many coats, color is expected to dry between one coat and other, in order to preserve the transparency of color, and gives it a special quietness that makes you believe of the first glance that it is just a water color.

 Despite the rain, I moved to the other wing of the building, where the decorative paintings, the statues and some of the drawings that had no enough place in the first building, in the paintings, there were units of butterflies, deer, birds and even repeated till you think that they are just a mirror of themselves, but as they have different forms, they are united by color, and when they have different colors, they are united in format, repetition reinforced the idea.

 As is the case of “A’NAT”, as with  butterflies, birds and deer that turn into decorative units, as well, the land of butterfliesthe land of deer. Each unit is the other and the other in terms of color and form,” they are not boring”, Canaan said, “these paintings turned into decorative murals for schools, I accomplished with my students”.

 The Jumper, who is attempting to fly as much as possible, is shown in most of Canaan’s paintings. The flying birdbutterflies found surreptitiously sneak into the paintings as if it is necessary to complete the idea of dialogue between the earth and the sky, as if Canaan” was going to try to issue another way,that he is trying to introduce the topic in depth. Flying wing and the plow unite with the pattern of the relationship between the earth and the sky.

Repeated attempts to aviation with Water Colors and wood carvings and iron, the dream of flight is not restricted to “Abbas bin Firnas” and not to the idea expressed in oil paintings. The dream of flight for all, and is expressed in the oil paintings, wood, as well as in metal.

 The dream of aviation is the wish of those who lost the sense of freedom and hope in flight. The flying bird in the paintings of “Canaan” is soaring above the barriers.

 Barriers in his paintings encompass people to turn in to a long line, as if they were hanged crossed on  Almashatih <oasis wood>.People are becoming just a long line, and as if they were losing their bodies. As Canaan sees the barrier, he sees the wall and a convoy passes, as if to leave.

Did Ahmed have the transparency and the sense of place to predict the separation wall of Israel?

Ahmed Canaan Sketches the suffering of the farmerthe peasant who has to leave his village to search for a living. He says, referring to a painting of an elderly man looked tired and oppressed,” This is a real man, 70-year-old, comes from the villages of Jenin in West Bank, goes up to  mountains and walk until he reaches Tamra in Galilee  to work. No one knows where he sleeps. But we know that he worked in  building constructionsin the parks, his work is hard. Once he was passing in front of the Studio, I asked him to become a model for the students  , he sat  down and because of his hard work he slept for two hours and they were sufficient to paint him. The elderly man kept behind the bleak while the outside was lightened. I asked Canaan about the dark circles, he said, the dark circles point out that he is living as invisible, but he exists and is non-existent, he is not part of the community, but he is here, he exists here illegally, he lives with us, but as if he does not exist.

In addition to the image of elderly man, a painting of a donkey with two children riding on its back, I asked Ahmed Canaan about the symbol of the donkey, he said: We had to ride the donkey for fun. In Al-Yamun village (Jenin area), where his Grandfather lived, there were large number of donkeys, and when we were children we used compete to ride donkeys. That gave us the happy feelings. This donkey is the latest donkey in Tamra, I saw two children riding on it and they were happy, I remembered my childhood and painted this painting”.

 Ahmed Canaan Composes the refuge of the Palestinians on the way of the myth, imagines a Phoenician boat carrying refugees. In stoops point refuge seekers and another boat full with the keys of the houses remained standing, as if they were their ownersput over each other,composed like streets as if the keys know the way home.

            The boat may be made of stone,woodiron. It earns from the color of iron and woods much sadness, and something of the cruelty of situation. The boat is single and lonely; there is only space surrounding it.

Women of “Ahmed Canaan are without faces. “I asked him why?” Are the features of women absence? ,that women were like “A’NAT” do not show their faces? no he said, it is a new way to bring about without sculpted faces.

It had started raining; we go back to where the paintings are presented in the old building. I wanted to urge running to avoid wetting my clothes, but it was the idea of plea, the idea of dominating him. Suddenly he asked, Do you see Mahmoud Darweesh? I said, Why do you ask? he said, once, I visited him in his house in Amman with a group of plastic artists, Perhaps he doesn’t remember me, but of his poems I inspired many of my themes. “I inquired.” How?” agitated, he said, the goddess A’NAT and other gods, Shrine, butterflies, the land of the gazelle and Purple. Mahmoud Darweesh brings me back to the roots, the old legend, where to draw sense from. he was quite for a little, still granules of rain were falling without he seemed to feel that,” I will send him my book, can you take it? I am glad to do that, I said. He did not write anything to Mahmoud Darweesh, but he said: He will know how much I’m affected by his poems.

* Translated by Ziad Labadi