Palestine Updates 73
It is argued that a resistance struggle can be measured for its maturity by appraising to what extent art and culture influences its progression. “Art adds energy to advocacy – and it reaches people at deeper emotional levels, conveying what cannot be said with mere facts”. (Creative Resistance: Why We Need to Incorporate Art into Our Activism). Activism through art involves simple, yet, profound people-rooted traditions, such as puppets, music, memes, posters, banners, plays, street theater, poetry, and animation.
In this special edition of Palestine Updates, we bring you illustrations of how Palestinian refugees in camps in Lebanon protest their forlorn conditions using art to relieve their hardships from behind the darkness of the high walls which surrounds their everyday being which deny them light into their lives – symbolically and literally.
The murals in this article are powerful. and speak to the heart. Please view, and disseminate.
By Marta Vidal*
A mural in Shatila made by Palestinian artist Omar Abu Steiti represents hope for more opportunities (MEE/Marta Vidal)
Mohammad Hamra works in front of his house in Burj al-Barajneh, painting a wood-carved map of Palestine (MEE/Marta Vidal)
Yet colours burst off the walls where murals have been painted by Palestinian artists using art as a way to affirm Palestinian identity and rights.
“I believe that colours give people hope,” says Jihad Moussa, a 20-year old university student and self-taught artist. He is interested in painting themes related to Palestinian heritage, but also likes to paint trees and animals to decorate the walls of Burj al-Barajneh and improve the camp’s appearance to its inhabitants.
A portrait of Yasser Arafat with Jerusalem reflected in his glasses on a wall in Burj al-Barajneh (MEE/Marta Vidal)
A Palestinian town on the walls of Shatila. A group of Palestinian and international artists made several murals in the camp to commemorate the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982 (MEE/Marta Vidal)
A wall painted by Jihad Moussa in Burj al-Barajaneh. Trees are often painted on the walls of dim streets where no plants could possibly grow (MEE/Marta Vidal)
Remembering Palestine in the camps of Lebanon: a depiction of Palestinian traditions and villages on a wall of Shatila (MEE/Marta Vidal)
Mohammad Hamra has been perfecting his crafts for 20 years (MEE/Marta Vidal)
Mohammad Daher, co-founder of al-Naqab
Tania Naboulsi next to her mural depicting Palestinian traditional dance in the refugee camp of Beddawi, north of Tripoli (MEE/Marta Vidal)
A map of Palestine in the works in Mohammad Hamra's studio (MEE/Marta Vidal)
Abdul Rahman Katanani, artist
“The materials I use come from the camp and have huge symbolism,” Katanani explains. The rusting metal can be interpreted as a symbol of waiting to come back to the homeland, and the barbed wire representative of the borders and restrictions Palestinian refugees face
According to UNRWA, more than half of the Palestinians in Lebanon are confined to refugee camps where there are high levels of unemployment, poverty and marginalisation. They are prevented from employment in over 30 professions and cannot own property outside of the camps. There are almost 18,000 registered refugees living in Burj al-Barajneh camp alone.
Katani’s barbed wire sculptures managed to travel to countries where he, as a Palestinian refugee, was unable to enter (Courtesy of Agial Gallery)
In the nearby refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, damp, overcrowded and precarious buildings give shelter to over 10,000 registered Palestinian refugees, a number that has grown in recent years with the arrival of refugees fleeing the Syrian war. Many of them are Palestinians who have become refugees for a second time.
Abu Marwan, a 47-year-old Palestinian refugee living in Shatila, works in construction and decoration. He has made several concrete murals and paintings replicating monuments in Jerusalem and commemorating the Palestinian intifada in Shatila.
Wires hang low near a wall painted with 'calligraffiti' by al-Naqab artists in Burj al-Barajneh. Every year dangerous wires cause several deaths from electrocution in the camp (MEE/Marta Vidal) “Personally I have no hope, but I [paint] because I want our children to know how much we suffered and to remember our villages and our land,” he says. For the forgotten stateless refugees in the camps of Lebanon, remembering Palestine through art is of central importance.
‘Zinc, barbed wire and freedom,’ the artwork of Abdul Rahman Katanani made with materials from the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp (Courtesy of Agial Gallery)
Katanani, who studied art at the Lebanese University of Beirut, started as a cartoonist drawing caricatures and painting graffiti. He later became more interested in sculpture and installations.
His artwork has been exhibited in Lebanon, France, Germany and in the Gulf, and at times his barbed wire sculptures managed to travel to countries where he, as a Palestinian refugee, was unable to enter.
Abdul Rahman Katanani turns metal and barbed wire into art. ‘The materials I use represent the people,’ he says (Courtesy of Agial Gallery)