Related themes

Migration and Movement

Artists move around the world, shifting their identities, cultural traditions, and artistic techniques.

Routes II

Mona Hatoum
(British of Palestinian origin, born in Beirut, Lebanon 1952)

2002. Gel pen and colored ink on five maps
a: gel pen on map
b: gel pen on map
c: colored ink on map
d: gel pen on map
e: colored ink on map, Installation: 35 1/2 x 42 x 1" (90.2 x 106.7 x 2.5 cm)

This work is composed of five color photocopies of maps taken from airline brochures depicting flight patterns. The airlines’ maps visualize networks created by travel and chart the globe primarily according to movement rather than natural, national, or political boundaries. Using ink and gouache, Hatoum drew colored lines onto these maps, adding her own hand-drawn abstract designs to the airlines’ existing web of routes.

Hatoum was born in Lebanon to Palestinian parents exiled from Haifa, Israel. In 1975, at the age of 23, she moved to England to escape the war that was beginning in Lebanon. As an artist displaced by conflict, Hatoum has found inspiration in movement, travel, and the discovery of new cultures, people, and lands. “The nomadic existence suits me fine,” she says, “because I do not expect myself to identify completely with any one place.”1 She has said that she considers the paths she drew in Routes II to be “routes for the rootless.”2

Mona Hatoum quoted in Beyond East and West: Seven Transnational Artists, by David O’Brien (Urbana-Champaign, Ill.: Krannert Art Museum, 2004), 44
Mona Hatoum quoted in “Caught in Her Web,” by Hannah Duguid, The Independent (London),December 13, 2006, 2
Antoni, Janine. Interview with Mona Hatoum. BOMB. Available online at

A water-based matte paint, sometimes called opaque watercolor, composed of ground pigments and plant-based binders, such as gum Arabic or gum tragacanth. The opacity of gouache derives from the addition of white fillers, such as clay or chalk, or a higher ratio of pigment to binder.

A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.

Messy Identities
I’m often asked the same question: ‘What in your work comes from your own culture?’” Hatoum once said. “As if I have a recipe and I can actually isolate the Arab ingredient, the woman ingredient, the Palestinian ingredient. People often expect tidy definitions of otherness, as if identity is something fixed and easily definable.”3