Naji Al-Ali

Al-Ali developed an affinity for art early on and was inspired by the work of a politically critical Palestinian cartoonist who is his namesake.  The nomad-like freedom of his childhood fed his creativity while allowing him to forge new ideas of place and belonging in various pockets of the world. As an artist, Al-Ali thoughtfully conceives of new worlds and employs symbolism imbued by his own sense of belonging, identity, and faith.

Al-Ali observes that his work “started off as paintings and developed meanings.” Though he has never stepped foot in his homeland of Palestine, Al-Ali feels a deep connection to his lineage and roots there. The city of Charlotte also plays a sacred role in his creative life, being the birthplace of his signature Lemonback character described as, “an abstract reflection of the world that we live in.” In addition to Lemonback, which also touches on the lemonback species of pythons, Al-Ali pairs his Free Birds with snake imagery as a symbolic reminder of continual evolution and being grounded on Earth.

Akin to the wind’s guidance of birds as they fly, he lives and works navigated by an intuitive and spiritual source, expressing it as the “Universe telling me how to maneuver.” Through the daintiest of details, seen for example by his working in threes throughout this series, Al-Ali creatively connects to his Islamic-based spirituality and larger purpose. Meticulously attune to the minute elements of each composition, Al-Ali aims to create space for each viewer to dive deeper into their own worlds by working in a manner of simplicity that strokes thought and distinct resonance.