Tom Nicholson

Comparative monument (Shellal), 2014-2016


Al Ma'mal (The Tile Factory)

Mosaics created with the Mosaic Centre, Jericho, with mosaicists Rafat Al Khatib and Renan Barham, and project management with Osama Hamdan and Iyad Jammed. Artist assistant on mosaic cartoons: Jamie O’Connell.  Video camera: Issa Freij, Christian Capurro, Tom Nicholson. Video editing: with Alex Archer. Additional Translation: Rasha Tayeh. Produced with the support of the Australia Council for the Arts, courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery.  


In 1917 a group of Australian (ANZAC) soldiers took control of an Ottoman hill-top position near Gaza, at Shallalah, or Shellal. They discovered a 6th Century mosaic, known as the Shellal Mosaic which was slowly uncovered, documented, excavated, and then crated and transported to Australia, where it was eventually built into the Australian War Memorial.


Nicholson’s work Comparative monument (Shellal) imagines the repatriation of the Shellal Mosaic, considering the parallel histories of dispossession that may be traced in the marking and un-marking of Palestinian and Australian lands. The project imagines the Shellal Mosaic created with tiles from another, Art Deco mosaic in the War memorial. Nicholson introduces a new color system to the animals of the original mosaic, suggesting a transformation or a new set of forms yet to emerge.  


A two-channel video further elaborates the braided horizons of sovereignty the mosaic traces, including fragments from conversations with the Bedouin Palestinian elder and activist Nuri al-Okbi.  The video components also meditate upon the Shellal Mosaic’s original site as the only place from which Bir Sab’a and Gaza City can be viewed with the naked eye, at the very limits of visibility.

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Comparative monument (Shellal). 2014-2016. Glass mosaic fragments, dimensions variable, and two-channel hd video.