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Palestinian Museum appoints Adila Laïdi-Hanieh as director after surprise departure of previous head

The writer and academic replaces Mahmoud Hawari who was only in post two years

Adila Laïdi-Hanieh

The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit has appointed a new director after the unexpected departure of the former chief Mahmoud Hawari who stepped down in May. The museum board has appointed the Algiers-born writer and academic Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, who takes up the post later this month.

Laïdi-Hanieh was the founding director of the Ramallah-based Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre from 1996 until 2005. She received her doctorate in Cultural Studies from George Mason University in Virginia, US, and taught Arab intellectual history at Birzeit University. Last year, she published a biography of the late Turkish artist Fahrelnissa Zeid called Painter of Inner Worlds.

Hawari, a visiting academic at the British Museum in London, was only appointed in May 2016 when the building was inaugurated; he replaced former director Jack Persekian who stepped down over differences regarding planning and management issues.

According to the job specification issued after Hawari’s departure, the new director would be responsible for the museum’s programmes and fundraising. The description also stated that “the museum’s director will be regarded as one of Ramallah’s civic leaders and become an active participant in the city and the Palestinian cause at large”.

Asked if this is a principal aim of the post, Zina Jardaneh, the chair of the museum board, told us: “We realise that it is not easy to find someone to tick all these boxes but we will do our utmost. We face challenges every day here and our aim is to hire a director who can lead the museum during the next phase.”

The board’s preference was for a regional candidate primarily because of visa and residency issues, she added. “However, we would consider an international candidate who is a ‘perfect' fit,” she said.

The Palestinian museum is a flagship project of Taawon-Welfare Association, a non-profit organisation registered in Switzerland. The next exhibition due to open in the sprawling new museum is Intimate Topographies; the show, scheduled for 2019, focuses on representations of landscapes in Palestinian art.