Tag Archive | Gaza

From national resistance to global movement – an intro to Palestinian graffiti (PHOTOS)

Posted on: March 3, 2015

By Hugh Lovatt

Judging by a quick Google search and perusal of Facebook and Twitter, the renowned British graffiti artist has managed to put Gaza and the plight of its inhabitants back into the international spotlight. Something badly needed given that six months after the longest and bloodiest round of fighting to date, Gaza has fallen off the international community’s foreign policy agenda, even as the still devastated Strip slips towards yet another round of violence with Israel. Yet despite this devastation, or perhaps because of it, urban art has flourished there.

Gaza Graffiti Exhibition, Bir Zeit Univesity

Gaza Graffiti Exhibition, Bir Zeit Univesity

Even before Banksy’s recent trip to Gaza, Palestinian graffiti had already reached a high degree of aesthetic refinement. In fact, the development of graffiti in Palestine can be traced all the way back to the First Intifada where it was an integral part of the Palestinian national movement and the strategy of civil disobedience against Israeli occupation. Banksy and other foreign artists have though provided local Palestinian artists with a unique insight into the latest techniques and trends, creating a unique form of graffiti that mixes local and global aesthetics.

Israeli Wall at the Qalandiya Checkpoint, West Bank

Israeli Wall at the Qalandiya Checkpoint, West Bank

The West Bank has steadily turned into one of the most established graffiti scenes in the Arab world, if not the whole world, offering stunning examples of the various forms into which graffiti can evolve.


Graffiti traces its origins back to the first Palestinian Intifada during which it was primarily used as a vehicle for the articulation of Palestinian identity. This was especially important due to widespread crackdowns on Palestinian nationalism by Israel as well as the banning of Palestinian flags and public declarations of allegiances to Palestinian political organizations.

Modern day graffiti in Ramallah

Modern day graffiti in Ramallah

As a result, graffiti was one of the few uncensored channels of expression through which Palestinians were able to safely articulate their repressed Palestinian identity without fear of Israeli retribution.

Graffiti in Ramallah, “Your are Never Alone”

Graffiti in Ramallah, “Your are Never Alone”

Following the end of the First Intifada, graffiti in the West Bank started to develop aesthetically beyond simple tags or scribbles to focus on more visually pleasing pieces. These nonetheless retained their value as didactic sub-texts that can be read and de-coded by Palestinian audiences.

Graffiti in Ramallah showing masked Palestinian holding a key and pencil

Graffiti in Ramallah showing masked Palestinian holding a key and pencil

A major part of this visual aestheticization was the incorporation of popular Palestinian symbolism, such as the widespread use of the pre-1948 map of Palestine, the al-Aqsa mosque and the recurrent image of the key symbolising the right of return for refugees as well as the black and white kufiya representing Palestinian nationalism, and the olive tree depicting the Palestinian concept of sumud or steadfastness.

Graffiti in Ramallah showing “Handhala”

Graffiti in Ramallah showing “Handhala”

But without a doubt the most popular symbol is that of a ten-year-old boy named Handhala. First created by the Palestinian journalist Naji al-Ali in 1969, the character is typically drawn turned away from the viewer with his hands crossed behind his back. Since then Handhala has become synonymous with Palestinian non-violent resistance, and more recently a symbol of Palestinian “hip-hop” culture.

Mural in in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem

Mural in in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem

Part of the widespread appeal that such objects represent for graffiti artists is their ability to produce a deep emotional response through relatively simple imagery that is easily reproduced, even by those relatively unskilled. More importantly, these images are easily recognized and understood by Palestinians, both in Israel as well as in the OPTs and diaspora communities around the world, as they form an integral part of a common Palestinian cultural heritage. As such, these images constitute hidden transcripts capable of mobilizing Palestinians around a national discourse by creating an imagined community tied to a common spatial identity and forged through collective suffering and individual losses.


Political slogan celebrating the establishment of the DFLP

Political slogan celebrating the establishment of the DFLP

As the numerous political slogans adorning Palestinian walls attest to, graffiti has also been seized upon by Palestinian factions such as PFLP, DFLP, Fatah and Hamas who see in it an effective means of disseminating their own propaganda.

Mural celebrating the PFLP’s leaders and martyrs in Bethlehem. Photo courtesy of the artist “Muhannad”

Mural celebrating the PFLP’s leaders and martyrs in Bethlehem. Photo courtesy of the artist “Muhannad”

Graffiti murals glorify the leaders and martyrs of Palestinian groups, emphasising their historic role in the Palestinian struggle. Hamas in particular has played a major role in the advancement of graffiti through the creation of art academies where graffiti artists can obtain an ‘ijaza or certificate allowing them to carry out graffiti commissions on behalf of the Islamist group.












Iyad Ramadan Sabbah

Iyad Ramadan Sabbah is a Palestinian sculptor born 1973 in Gaza who lives and works there. iyad-sabbahHe studied at Fateh University in Lybia where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Sculpture. He holds an MA Fine Art Sculpture from Helwan University in Cairo.

Sabbah is a well know sculptor who became famous for his beach exhibition called “Worn Out”. His sculptures and the installations he uses are very artistic- many of his works have taken on an overt political tone.

In this case of “Worn Out” Palestine is all over his artwork, he uses his art to show the suffering of his people.

This exhibition is meant to show the horrors Palestinians faced in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza city, which saw some of the heaviest fighting in the summer’s 50-day conflict (2014). More than 2,200 people were killed, 11,200 civilians were injured and thousands of houses were razed by Israel.

Sabbah explained that this exhibition represents the psychological impact of war and commemorate those who died.

Shuja’iyya neighborhood is one of the places that was completely destroyed. The artist wanted with this work to focus on displacement of the Palestinians. He is completely sure that there has been a violation of humanity in all of the Gaza community as a result if the aggression.sabbah-iyad

All the sculptures were created using mud and waste materials found in bombsites.

The sculputures were also placed on the beach in Gaza to symbolize the refugees fleeing to other countries illegally in a desperate attempt to escape the conflict.

The familly of seven clay figures including a small child and a baby appear to moved through debris and rubble and past shelled homes.


Personal Exhibitions

Earth Gallery – Tripoli -1993

Fair point of view – Tripoli -1994

Folds Gallery – Arts and Crafts Village – Gaza

Gallery shades of red – the French Center in Gaza and moved to the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah 2009

Gallery outside the box – Qattan Center – Gaza 2010


Exhibitions and awards

Nasser University Gallery – Tripoli 1993

Planetarium Gallery – Tripoli – Libya – 1994

Red Crescent Gallery – Khan Younis -1990

Fine Artists Association Gallery – Rashad grilling – Gaza – 2001

Gallery of Fine Artists Association – Municipal Library Auditorium – Rafah

Vanguard Gallery Forty – fifth -2005 – Cairo – Egypt

The Alexandrian Alexandria Biennale XXIII – 2005 – Cairo – Egypt

Spring Fair – Ramallah -2003

Gallery artists from the Gaza Strip – Paris and surfed some French cities – 2007

Shield Association artists -2002

Art Lovers Society Award – 2005

Third prize in the competition did not Mobile ( White Night ) French Cultural Center -2007

Bank of Palestine Award – in Palestine 2009 Art Competition

Gallery 10 artists from Gaza – Paris – 2009

Gallery traces the war – Photography – French Center Strip – 2009

Dual exhibition durable – Deira Hotel – Gaza 2009

See gallery for faculty members at the University of Max – the French Center – Gaza 2009

Exhibition case – Rashad Shawa of Gaza 2010

Gallery 22 – Power Windows – 2010

Vss visual gallery – gallery convergence -2010 of

Gallery in Shi needed becomes – gallery -2010 Federation of

Palestinian Art Gallery – Dubai – Art only – 2010

Gallery Palestine in the eyes of young people – Bir Zeit – Nablus – Bethlehem – 2010

Auction yard – Jerusalem 2010

Collective exhibition Sharm El Sheikh 2011

Czech group exhibition 2012

A group exhibition of the Sultanate of Oman 2012

Collective exhibition – Czech Republic – 2012

Gallery fingerprints – Tunisia – 2013

Art gallery and workshop – Konia Turkey 2013 AD


Business Field

The launch of the Phoenix Monument – Palestine Square – Gaza

Monument dream of return – field Abu Hamid – , Khan Younis

Mermaid monument complex Italian – Gaza

Monument of redemption – the field of the 17 – Rafah

Festival honoring shield of Arab Artists 2009

Mental Health Shield 2010

Shield Strip Festival 2011

Shield Theater 2011

Key shield Gaza 2012

Medal of the Jerusalem International Prize 2012









Further reading:

Palestinian artist: sculptures spotlight Palestinian displacement