The stairs leading downward to Abdul Hay Mosallam Zarara’s studio get progressively smaller. The reduction of size is disconcerting. I have had recurring dreams about steps for years and I’m finally living the dreams. In my dreams the steps are stone, they differ in height and fade off into nowhere at great heights. The stones on Abdul Hay’s steps are worn to a shine with concave curves in the center. The steps resemble the marble on the Pieta where millions of people have touched the top of the foot of the figure of Jesus. Many of the steps in Jordan look similar. They are a physical record of the passage of millions of lives and history.
Anyone who is eighty years old, in poor health and blind in one eye, like Abdul Hay, and climbs these steps deserves a huge medal of courage. I was honestly ready to retrace my tracks at one point, but thank goodness I was too discombobulated to turn around on the narrow step. On the way down the stairs, we (Ahmad, Tamimi and I) were intercepted by a well known-artist, Mohammad Abuzraiq, who escorted us to Abdul Hay’s studio.
Abdul Hay greeted us at the door of his studio, invited us inside and served us coffee.
The first question he asked me was, “Do you like Jordan?” After replying that I like Jordan a lot he asked why. I replied, “I like the people. They are wonderful and so welcoming.” He then said, “Yes, people. Heaven can’t be heaven without people. Who would want to die if people aren’t in heaven?” Abul Hay’s reply sums up my beliefs in a nutshell. People made it possible for me to come to Jordan and people are the reason I’m in Jordan, more specifically: the Palestinian people.
Abdul Hay is the “star” of all the artists I’ve met in my lifetime. Throughout all of his years of working consistently on his art he has never once compromised his ideas. This is probably the only reason many people outside of Jordan and a few places in the middle east aren’t aware of his art. His art meticulously documents the military occupation of Palestine, and the traditional and cultural history of Palestine.
After viewing his three-dimensional paintings he told me he’s been very sick for the past two years, unable to work and has lost his sight in one eye. He creates the three dimensional impasto reliefs for his paintings by smashing up tree roots in a palm-sized wooden bowl with a wooden stick that looks like a knot in a root.
I noticed one of his paintings is about Rachel Corrie – a documentation of her death by military bulldozer and a commemoration of her contributions to Palestinian human rights. Abdul Hay told me he contacted Rachel’s parents a couple of years ago and told them he wants to give them the painting. He said they told him they would come to Jordan to pick up the painting and he is waiting for her parents to arrive. The painting is wrapped in plastic, ready to go. If any readers know Rachel’s parents please let them know Abdul Hay is still waiting for their arrival.
Abdul Hay’s FB page:
His Wikipedia entry:
The following photos are of Abdul Hay in his studio displaying his three-dimensional painting about a woman who’s husband was killed by soldiers. After the death of her husband, she is pushed out of her house by soldiers and her son can no longer get milk from her breast. Without food and a home the son reaches for a rifle (really a stone) in an attempt to get his house back (represented by the key):