01 Painting, Middle East Artists, Ismail Shammout’s Nahnou bi Kheyr, Taminouna/ We Are in Good Health, Reassure Us, with Footnotes #69

Henry Zaidan
3 min readMay 20, 2024
Ismail Shammout (Palestinian, 1931–2006)
Nahnou bi Kheyr, Taminouna (We Are in Good Health, Reassure Us), c. 1976

Oil on canvas
39 3/8 x 27½in. (98 x 68.5cm)
Private collection

Sold for USD 161,000 in Mar 2015

The present lot Nahnou bi Kheir, Taminouna (We are in Good Health, Reassure us) from 1976, is seminal example from the artist’s earlier works. Shammout’s raw depiction of the Palestinian refugee experience was a recurring motif in his paintings and as such the present work illustrates a Palestinian refugee family in a typical Gaza residence, cramped in their present dwelling. Filled with Palestinian symbolism, Shammout illustrates the determination of his people to regain their homeland through symbolic references borrowed from verbal images that he introduces in his painting’s title. The title itself was a common phrase in the days of telegrams that became a signature sign off for Arabic radio programmes in the 1960s and 1970s, particular for people in war zones such as Palestine, that listed names of the families or individuals who wanted to reassure their relatives of their safety.

With this in mind, Shammout captures a seemingly widowed mother, like countless others, who has inherited the responsibility of solely caring for her family. She is proudly dressed in traditional Palestinian attire and is flanked by her three young children who are clinging to her. While the children seem timid and lost, the mother’s expression is blank, subtly insinuating the suffering that she has already experienced in her lifetime. In the background, an elderly couple is forlornly in mourning. The walls are adorned with portraits of family members presumably both dead and alive and religious Islamic relics. While each member of the family is absorbed in their own emotion, there is an undeniable sense of unity and defiance. The artist has utilised deep, rich colours to uniquely achieve the sense of simultaneous tragedy yet tranquillity. More on this painting

Ismail Shammout (1930–2006) was a Palestinian artist and art historian.

Shammout was born in 1930 in Lydda. On July 12, 1948, he and his family were amongst 25,000 residents of Lydda expelled from their homes by Israeli occupation. The Shammout family moved to the Gaza refugee camp of Khan-Younes. In 1950 Shammout went to Cairo and enrolled in the College of Fine Arts. After returning to Gaza in 1953, he held his first exhibition, which was a success.

Shammout and Palestinian artist Tamam al Akhal participated in the Palestine Exhibition of 1954 in Cairo. The exhibition was inaugurated by then Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser. Later in 1954, he moved to Italy and enrolled at the Academia De Belle Arti in Rome. He married al Akhal in 1959. Their work has been exhibited in several countries.

Shammout became a part of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the Director of Arts and National Culture in 1965. He also held the position of Secretary General of the Union of Palestinian Artists. He became Secretary General of the Union of Arab artists in 1969. In 1992 he and his wife, al Akhal, moved to Germany due to the Gulf War. After Germany, they settled in Jordan.

He and Al Akhal, returned to Lydda in 1997.

He died on July 1, 2006, at the age of seventy-six. More on Ismail Shammout

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Henry Zaidan

In my Blog is an Online collection of significant paintings from the 1st century to today; complete with art-history and artist bibliographies.