Today we’d like to introduce you to Karmel Sabri.
Karmel, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
My family is originally from a city in the West Bank of Palestine called Qalqilya. Most have not been back since leaving in the late 60s due to the occupation that has been taking place since 1948. I conflated Palestine with my identity from an early age and quickly realized that something as simple as stating my nationality could become controversial. I found solidarity in community spaces and solace in artistic expression.
I spent a lot of time mobilizing and organizing with anti-war groups when I was living in Minneapolis and became a part of the Students for Justice in Palestine when I moved to Chicago. Bringing people together and creating platforms was always something I loved to do, so naturally, I started planning events. My events are usually conceptual, focusing on political and social concerns. I also use celebration as a form of resistance. I have a lot of fun curating every aspect of these events, bringing so many different types of artists together to create a whole experience to match the concept. I like to incorporate an educational element, and I feel like when considered, things like food and music can teach so much. An event that has really become a part of me is the Dear Gaza Block Party Fundraiser, which I host in Minneapolis. I started it in the summer leading into my freshman year of college and have ended up planning it every summer throughout my undergrad. Going into its fourth year, it’s something that has grown to be a part of me yet is clearly so much bigger than me. I consider celebration a form of resistance and building partnerships and community relations is something I love to do especially when it’s for a cause I am passionate about and can ultimately motivate the community. All the money raised goes towards supplying medical aid to the Gaza Strip, and with the Minneapolis art community, Dear Gaza has put a spotlight on the plight of the Gaza Strip.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I suppose it took me a while to call myself an artist because I felt like there were so many expectations that came with that word, but once I let go of those misconceptions, I realized how free the art world actually is and the possibilities became almost overwhelming. I do consider event planning a part of my art practice. Stephanie Syjuco once said her work could be qualified as “consistently inconsistent” and that really struck a chord with me. When I was at SAIC, I worked in ceramics, performance, sculpture, fiber, and printmaking and truly enjoyed different aspects of all of them. In general, I consider myself a socially engaged installation artist. I tend to make work that envelops my audience and aims to educate or speak on issues I care about. I feel like I can usually best achieve this through installation, performance, and event planning. Other times, I chose to make a print, an object, or a photo, so it can be hard to summarize. My experiences as a Palestinian-American woman influence almost all my work. Coming from this specific standpoint, I focus on the first generation experience, more specifically America’s relationship to Israel as it pertains to continuing the occupation of the Palestinian peoples through means of legal, monetary, and political support.
What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Scavenge as much free material as possible and make your art skills into a hustle.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My website karmelsabri.com is the best place to find all my artwork and events. I post most of my creative directing work on my Instagram @karmelsabri.
Additionally, I have the next Dear Gaza block party coming up on September 29th in Minneapolis, MN. You can find all the info on that at deargaza.com.
Amanda Assaley, Pierre Ware, Samson Melkamu