Most murals are made from paint. It’s simple, light, and easy to shape into the artist’s vision. But Khaleel Abu Haltam doesn’t like to do things the easy way.
The Jordanian contemporary artist’s new bronze mural, which opened Sunday night at the Jordan Directorate of Arts and Theater in Amman, was carved form cement.
“[Haltam] is humble and hasn’t discussed it much, but cement is very difficult to sculpt. It is tough and hard. He wore no gloves, and used his bare hands,” said Huda Kaoud, a friend of Haltam.
It took Haltam nearly four months to complete, and is now the longest mural in the Middle East. Haltam, 31, said the mural begins by displaying early forms of Arab art, such as music and sculpture, then progresses as the wall continues into more nuanced art forms like theater, in which different art forms coalesce.
“The story of the wall shows the improvement and development of Arab art across the ages,” said Haltam. “But art in the end is not separate. It all mixes together. It is love.”
The beginning section of the mural draws on several Jordanian archeological sites, depicting Nabataean and Greco-Roman ruins from the ancient cities of Petra and Jerash, as well as scenery from Wadi Rum valley. Haltam said his most powerful inspiration comes from the Nabataean civilization, which established Petra, its capital city, as early as 312 BCE.
A graduate of Yarmouk University in northern Jordan, Haltam has traveled the Mediterranean to sculpt, having visited destinations such as Cyprus and Lebanon. He is now a resident artist for the Jordanian Ministry of Culture, working on projects such as set designs for the theater.
By J. Zach Hollo