By Marcelle Mansour OAM
Janet Venn-Brown -A Life in Art; 2016, Dr Peter Manning’s lavishly illustrated book in English edition, celebrated and honours her extraordinary life as an Australian remarkable painter and determined campaigner for Palestinian statehood. It captures her artistic work of painted radiant interiors during her 40 years in Rome, where she fell in love with Palestinian activist Wael Zuaiter, and depicts her political engagement in the Middle East after Wael was murdered.
Dinner with Janet Brown-Venn & Peter Manning, as a night of art was hosted by Arab Council Australia at Summerland Restaurant on Wednesday 26th of July 2017. The event was attended by Senator Shawquet Muslemani, MP of the Legislative Council of the Australian Parliament, Ms Julia Finn MP Australian Labor Party for Granville NSW, Mr Lauri Ferguson former MP, Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. HE Izzat Abdulhadi, and First Secretary Ms Noura Saleh from the Palestinian Embassy in Canberra, Mr Ali Kazak, senior Palestinian Diplomat, and former Ambassador of Palestine, Painter and Campaigner Janet Venn-Brown, Dr Peter Manning, Author of Janet Venn Brown A Life in Art, heads of associations, Ms Randa Kattan- CEO of Arab Council Australia, community leaders and a crowd of Australian Arab and Palestinians.
Ms Zahia Shriedy MCed the event, Ms Randa Kattan hosted the night, speakers were H.E. Izzat Abdulhadi, the Ambassador of State of Palestine, Dr Peter Manning, Australian distinguished journalist and Author of Janet Venn Brown: A Life in Art, followed by Q & A Session conducted by Peter along with book signing.
The speakers took the audience to a tour of history about Janet Venn – Brown’s life, the 92 years old Australian artist who created interior paintings for 40 years during her life in Italy while she was based in Rome after she studied art at her Italian school.
It was in Rome where she met Wael Zu’aiter (2 January 1934–16 October1972) the Palestinian intellectual Writer, Translator and the Fatah Representative and Spokesman in Rome at that time. Zu’aiter was born in Nablus in 1934, the son of Adel Zu’aiter who was one of the notable families of the city and worked as a lawyer and university lecturer and translator. In Italy, Wael went to university for foreigners and took lessons in singing for he was fascinated by music, and had a perfect ear for sound. Janet and Wael fall in love with each other when he sang to her beautifully the song of It was a lover and his lass while they were walking the banks of the Tiber. Since then Janet became Zu’aiter’s partner for eight years and she was one of the last people to see him before his assassination happened on 16 October 1972. It was reported that Wael Zuaiter was murdered not because he was a terrorist, rather because he was a passionate intellectual Palestinian political activist. Before he was killed, Zu’aiter was in the process of translating One Thousand and One Nights to Italian language which was left uncompleted.
Janet traveled to Europe before settled in Rome, where she hosted her friends of Australian well known painters such as Justin O’Brien, Martin Sharpe, Arthur Boyd Donald, Margaret Olley, Jeffrey Smart and the renowned Writer David Malouf. She also traveled to Middle Eastern countries and painted various interiors over there and she is still constantly painting.
Janet Venn-Brown: A Life in Art’s book of 180 pages has color illustrations and contains the Australian artist’s biography that was born in 1924 and left Australia for Rome in the 1960s, capturing the streets and architectural buildings of the towns, and narrating the story of her life during her 40 years in Rome until her return to Australia in 2011. The book shows her relationship with the Palestinian political activist Weal Zu’aiter and her engaging in political activity regarding to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In a life time devoted to art making Janet Venn- Brown was celebrated with a beautiful art display hung on the wall, featured a selection of her real interior artwork that has a soft touch and a delicate colour along with a great book published about her life and wonderful work as a retrospective exhibition. The book is a wonderful celebration of not just Janet Venn- Brown’s work, but her life and dedication to ceaseless work for the Palestinian cause, human rights and social justice.
This book is certainly of great value and must be read, as it moves the reader to a real world to live an artistic, intellectual, social and political experience in our current reality. Congratulations to the journalist Dr. Peter Manning, and thanks for writing this amazing book. Extended thanks go to Ms. Randa Kattan, the staff of the Arab Council of Australia and all those who participated in the event.