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Rural Ohio Curator Brings Palestinian-American Artists Together

by Mandy Shunnarah

A gallery exhibiting a variety of artworks on its white walls and in its exhibition space. There is a collection of waist-height stands holding text-based works, while the walls are dotted with a line of two-dimensional works. There is also a set of white pedestals have a handful of three-dimensional works in the middle of the gallery space.
Photo Credit: Gazala Projects
The exhibition, Text Me When You Get Home, curated by Mona Gazala of Gazala Projects at Ohio State University Hopkins Hall Gallery in Columbus, Ohio.

For “Text Me When You Get Home,” Mona Gazala invited Palestinian poets and text artists with ties to Ohio, and explored the idea of community, connection, and care.

Throughout the Arab world, poets and calligraphers have been revered as having noble professions practicing timeless, venerated forms of art. Building upon this tradition is Palestinian-American artist and curator Mona Gazala’s exhibition “Text Me When You Get Home,” which features Palestinian poets and text artists with ties to Ohio.  

“This exhibition brings those art forms forward into modern-day contexts, expressing both the personal and the political realities of the Palestinian diaspora through verse and visual text-based art,” Gazala says.  

A person of light skin tone paints with their hands on dark asphalt. They are close to the ground as they make their art.
Photo Credit: Gazala Projects
Artist Noel Magathe during their performance of ‘Blue in Arabic,’ a piece in the ‘Text Me When You Get Home’ exhibition curated by Gazala Projects.

The phrase “text me when you get home” might be something you send to a friend or family member after seeing them so you know they made it home safely. But for this exhibit, the phrase takes on a whole new meaning.  “I wanted to play on the word ‘text’ because that’s the basis of this exhibition, and ‘home’ because at the back of all of our minds is this longing for a homeland,” Gazala says. “But I’ve also thought a lot lately about the communities I’ve belonged to over the years. Palestinian-American artists are also my community, but it’s not one that’s defined by a specific geography, and so, how do we stay connected, is the question. That phrase ‘text me when you get home’ is something you say to somebody you care about, with whom you want to check in. So ultimately, that title is about mutual care and connection.”

Gazala’s studio and postcolonial art gallery—which doubles as an Arabic literature bookstore and research center—is called Gazala Projects and is based in rural Gettysburg, Ohio, since June 2022. The move to a rural area is twofold—the land is more affordable for artists and land ownership without fear of displacement is critically important to Palestinians’ sense of identity, and by being in a rural area, Gazala’s work exposes people to Palestinian art and culture where it might otherwise seldom be seen.

“By bringing these works together into one show, and combining literature with art, this project aims to bring public attention to the proliferation of contemporary work by Palestinians as well as to encourage further collaborations among us,” Gazala says.

“Text Me When You Get Home” was exhibited at the Ohio State University Hopkins Hall Gallery in June, and is currently on view at Gazala Projects Studio at 101 East Main St. in Gettysburg, Ohio, with a closing reception from 1:00-3:00 pm on July 22. Gallery hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 12-3pm or by appointment.