• Deanna Hitti with her award-winning artwork, TOWLA. Photos supplied.

Twist on backgammon wins print award

MELBOURNE artist Deanna Hitti has won the $16,000 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award for her work TOWLA.

Towla is Lebanese for backgammon, and the work is a book of the rules written in Arabic, Latin and English.

“It’s a traditional game in Lebanon and the Middle East,” Hitti says.

“I played it with my father and I played it with my brother.”

Amid the layers of cultural significance, there’s a personal resonance for Hitti who started the project with her father Antonios El Hitti, who died before it was finished.


“He went to Lebanon on a holiday and died of a heart attack,” she says.

Without her dad to help with translations, Hitti enlisted the help of her friend Katarina Achkar.

TOWLA is quite literally a book, and while visitors won’t be able to touch it, there’s a video of the pages turning over to reveal the beautifully constructed wording.

“The Arabic letters spell the instructions in English and the Latin letters spell the instructions in Arabic,” Hitti says.

The personal and cultural intertwine in Hitti’s exploration of growing up in Australia, and the joys and challenges that entails.

It’s also a comment on the representation of the Middle East in the media.

Torres Strait Island artist Fiona Elisala came second with her work Uman.

“[Hitti and Elisala’s] works offer an invitation to understand the experiences of these artists and how their practices record and maintain heritage and traditions that are shared within communities across generations,” the judges said.

WA artist Amy Perejuan-Capone’s Holding Breath was highly commended.

All 50 finalists will be at the Fremantle Arts Centre until November 4.


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