He was forced out of his homeland in Palestine, survived an execution attempt in Lebanon, and through it all, he remained true to his artistic flair.  

Years after his passing, Palestinian artist, sculptor, and poet Toufic Abdul-Al (1938-2002) continues to live on through his work. 

Abdul-Al will soon be commemorated in Beirut with an exhibition titled 'Rhythms of a Different Time', which will be open to the public from June 25 through to July 31 at Dar El Nimer in Clemenceau.

Abdul-Al is survived by his son, Tarek, who spoke to StepFeed about his father's artistic journey as well as the upcoming exhibition.

Who was Toufic Abdul-Al?

Born in Acre, Abdul-Al had a knack for art ever since he was a child, skipping school except for arts and sports classes. By the age of nine, he had already hosted his own exhibition, which was organized by his art teacher.

After the 1948 Nakba, when over 700,000 Palestinians were illegally expelled from their lands by Israeli forces, Abdul-Al moved to Lebanon and continued to produce artwork. 

Abdul-Al enriched Palestinian cultural heritage with a varied spectrum of exceptional works, featuring his distinctive style, and he thus joined the top ranks in the post-Nakba Palestinian art scene.

He took part in tens of Arab exhibitions and his work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the honorary title of the Sursock Museum, the Shield of the Artist Naji Al-Ali, and the Medal of Jerusalem.

"Until his last breath, Toufic Abdul-Al was loyal to his human and patriotic messages through his overall artistic production which was marked with his spirit and that exuded a sense of freedom and truth," writes Palestinian artist Nasser Soumi.

From paintings to poems

An excerpt from Abdul-Al's poetry Source: Abdulal

Speaking to StepFeed, Tarek Abdul-Al revealed that his father gradually lost his eyesight after surviving an execution attempt in 1987, during the civil unrest in Beirut. 

"My dad was a fighter, so he attempted to paint (before completely losing his sight), but I think he was unable to distinguish colors in the same fashion he used to," he said. 

"He then started writing and produced tens of poems, his poems speak for themselves. He tried to paint pictures with letters rather than brushes."   

On leaving his homeland

Despite having most of his work destroyed during the Nakba, Abdul-Al did not surrender to his fate but instead managed to restore himself as an artist.

"He (Toufic) believed that the price he paid as a Palestinian is insignificant compared to those who lost their lives, a beloved one, or were left disabled. Our people have made great sacrifices and shall continue to do so till we liberate our occupied homeland," his son said.

On liberating women through art

The artist dedicated a big portion of his work to women, depicting them in a less traditional lens than what was considered the norm at the time.

"I guess he was trying to rebel against the traditional picture of women as the mother or sister of the martyr, covered by a headscarf and mourning the loss of her beloved. I believe Toufic liberated Arab women in general and Palestinian women in particular from such role," said his son.

"He depicted women in all shades of colors. She is the land, the mother, and subsequently, the incubator of the revolution."

"He was not just an artist"

Provided by Tarek Abdul-Al

"An artist, in general, may be difficult to be understood. Toufic, however, was not just an artist," said Tarek Abdul-Al, explaining that his father was also a poet and a sculptor.

"He was a romantic dreamer who loved nature, beauty, and the simple, tranquil life," according to his son.

He added that as the only son, he was close to his father and enjoyed watching him work.

"However, I think I am rediscovering my dad now, and things are starting to make more sense. I found out he predicted the Palestinian revolution before it started, and its defeat afterwards," he said.

"I think he still talks to me through his paintings," he added.

Don't miss out on the upcoming exhibition

Curated by Nasser Soumi, a renowned artist who was a close friend of Abdul-Al, the exhibition will shed light on the latter's artistic journey and showcase a selection of his work.

Apart from talks by Soumi, Tarek Abdul-Al, as well as Lebanese journalist Roger Outa, the event will include the launch of a book about Abdul-Al's life.