The Present Absent” (“Hanochakh Nifkad”), the title of the exhibition, hints at all the Palestinians that were was forced to abandon their homes during the 1948 Nakhba and to move to nearby villages and settlements, to be refugees and exiles in their native land. Israel granted them citizenship, but they were not allowed to return to their homes. The State of Israel took over these houses and promulgated the “Law of the Present Absent” – accounted for on the lists, but kept away from their homes. By dropping the monosyllabic first letter “Ha” of “Hanifkad", the Hebrew word for absente, and thus changing its grammatical usage from adjective to verb/direct object, Nasrin Abu Baker emphasizes absence as an actual action. The figures in her works exude a physical presence, but they are “absentees” when it comes to their ability to be of influence, invisible to the state’s institutions.
Nasrin Abu Baker’s body of works is wide-ranging and broad. While still a very young girl, she would frequent her father’s building supplies storage room, gaze at the colors and take in their aromas. Her love for art began there, so it was only natural that she would use raw materials like cement, tar and work boots in her creations. Abu Baker draws her ideas from the storage room of the home where she grew up, from backstage, symbolic of a dark place containing the accumulation of the remains of her home, as well as the passage of time. In addition, she used materials that were of value in the environment of the family’s collective memory and taken from the area where the house stands, like bolts of cloth, pillows, curtains and dresses.
While her works pose questions regarding the status of the Palestinian women, Abu Baker draws her inspiration from daily life, and concerns such as work, livelihood and the status of Israel’s Arab citizens inform the choice of her topics. The simple compositions express the two-fold chauvinistic oppression of the Palestinian woman – by her own society and by the authorities of the ruling state. Juxtaposing the image of the Palestinian woman with that of the Palestinian laborer, she reinforces the concept of loving the land and the homeland.
Nasrin Abu Baker depicts life by means of her unique definition of what it is, by employing a variety of colors, as well as abstractions in black, to emphasize pain. The vitality of her ideas is most obvious in her installations, where she presents a surrealistic world of dreams acting to destroy conventions and stereotypes. Nevertheless, the language she chooses is understandable and clear, characterizing the weak and marginal groups while at the same time talking with them.
Salim Abu Jabal