The Pit is pleased to present “Tamur Land,” the second solo exhibition by San Francisco based artist Maryam Yousif. The exhibition presents a selection of new ceramic sculptures and one ceramic wall piece and will be on view at The Pit Palm Springs from June 3 - July 8, 2023.

The word “tamur” in Iraqi means dates, the fruit of the ubiquitous tree that dots the Coachella Valley around Palm Springs. The date palms of Palm Springs are not native. Though the iconic tree is synonymous with the place, the tree was cultivated for thousands of years in the artist’s native Iraq before being imported to the area in the late 19th century. A potent symbol of resilience, and nourishment, the tree was regularly depicted in ancient Mesopotamia and Assyrian bas reliefs, shown alongside gods and royalty as a sign of fertility. Much like the artist’s “habibti” figures (habibti translating to “sweetheart” or “my love”) which function as modernized versions of Sumerian votive statues, the palms have become yet another character within Yousif’s ever expanding universe.

Tamur Land as an exhibition unfolds as a series of tableaus, with stoneware figures, palms and vessels placed together in a freeform narrative. Anthropomorphized and twisting around one another the palms are suspended in a dance with figures interspersed. And while the habibtis stand calmly with arms to their sides, occasionally carrying the cosmic bag seen in Assyrian carvings, the palms feel as if they’re in constant movement. Within “Sailing Face” a woman’s head sits coolly on the stalk of an arching palm, providing support for the head which wraps its hair around the tree in tender embrace. Yousif’s “Heart of Palms” places a habibti draped in an opulently funky and colorful dress beneath a tree that carefully extends itself over the figure, providing a sense of shelter and protection. In “Date Palm / The Voice of Love” an upright palm functions as a pole propped with an irregularly shaped clay tablet echoing the billboards that line Palm Springs’ iconic Gene Autry Trail as it cuts through the desert into town. The odd advertisement features a face framed in a chunky white border, the woman’s eyes done up with a heavy dose of eyeliner, a gliding string of red arabic text reads “The Voice of Love” – the title pulled from a 1973 Egyptian movie featuring one of the artist’ favorite singers Warda.

Tamur Land acts as an ode to the adaptability and fortitude of the date palm, reinterpreting and modernizing the ancient Iraqi depictions of this tree for a contemporary audience. The artist sees her own story much like that of the date palms which were grown in Iraq and transplanted within American soil. In a sense they’re both immigrants here, spreading their roots and flourishing within a new environment yet carrying their unique personal histories and cultural lineages with them.