Tag Archive | Palestinian Territories

Separation wall showcases graffiti

Posted on: 2015/06/05

By Nadine Sayegh

Wall between Israel and West Bank remains main platform for subcul­ture that is viewed as a global ex­pression of resistance.garffitti3

To exist is to resist, Freedom for Palestine and I am not a terrorist read some of the slogans of Palestin­ian graffiti, which cover walls, doors and war-broken houses across Gaza and the West Bank.

But the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank remains the main platform for the subcul­ture that is viewed as a global ex­pression of resistance against soci­etal injustice.

Just like the Berlin Wall was an ir­refutable monument of injustice in Europe, the separation wall, a phys­ical barrier segregating two peoples, has come under global scrutiny as a testament to modern apartheid.

The abundance of graffiti that can be found on the Israel-West Bank partition has drawn graffiti artists from around the world to also make their mark.

Palestinian graffiti has been pre­sent since long before the wall was erected and not long after the Israeli occupation began.

London-based visual and graffiti artista Hafez Omar, a native of Ra­mallah, underlined that resistance against the occupation was the cat­alyst for the emergence of graffiti in the territories.

“It didn’t come as an art practice or a practice for self expression, it was part of confronting the obsta­cles that the Israeli occupation put in front of the Palestinian people,” Omar said in an interview with The Arab Weekly.

“The kind of graffiti that existed in Palestine was part of a politi­cal communication process. It was used as an alternative to not having any regular media outlets to deliver messages… It really helped people to know what the collective stances on events were, and what the next step against the occupation was,” Omar said.

“I remember, I used to know all the news through the walls. My political education as a Palestinian born in ’83 was through messages on the walls.”

Graffiti culture in the Palestinian territories has evolved and took up some of the values that existed in the West but it was not taken away from the core of the art form — re­sistance against an unjust system.

Just as Che Guevara became the face of revolutionary sentiment, global graffiti culture has become intertwined with the Palestinian cause. Slogans and tags such as Free Palestine and Palestina Libre have become symbols of resistance and peace worldwide.

Hugh Lovatt, of the European Council on Foreign Relations and who has conducted extensive field­work on Palestinian graffiti and hip-hop culture in Israel and the Occu­pied Territories, disputed the idea that modern graffiti was born as a means of subverting a dominant system, whether it is political, cul­tural or artistic.

“Graffiti is part of a broader hip-hop culture that also includes rap music. The fact that hip-hop cul­ture has been adopted by margin­alised youth communities in urban centres all over the world as one of their main mediums of popular ex­pression attests to that,” Lovatt told The Arab Weekly.

It is difficult to dissociate graffiti from hip-hop culture, encompass­ing a genre of music, a type of dance and a particular visual art — all re­flecting perceived communal injus­tice. Modern Palestinian graffiti is no exception to this rule, according to Lovatt.

For those living in the Gaza Strip, artwork illustrating Palestinian resistance has become part of the landscape but hip-hop culture was a big player in its growth.

Ahmad Seedawi, a Gazan graf­fiti artist studying at Palestine University, told The Arab Weekly that his interest developed through breakdancing, which he began very young. His knowledge of graffiti grew at a later stage and he learnt the art form through visiting foreign artists and through the internet.

“It started with five original guys who would tag walls in their local neighbourhoods. We learnt at first from a group of Italian artists who came to visit, then a group of Amer­icans also taught us,” Seedawi ex­plained. “I am giving lessons now, every other day, to all sorts of peo­ple, guys and girls, young and old. Everyone is interested.”

Attention towards the art form is growing, as graffiti has become increasingly tolerated and encour­aged in the Gaza Strip. Following the destruction of the Shujaiyeh refugee camp during Israeli bom­bardments of Gaza in summer 2014, slogans and drawings appeared on damaged building blocks as a sym­bol of unconditional perseverance.

“We want the world to know what happens in Gaza and will continue to show it through our graffiti,” Omar said.

The separation wall has also be­come a hotspot for international tal­ent. Artists from around the world visit the wall to showcase their work on a platform with a global audience. High-profile artists such as photographer JR and graffiti art­ist Banksy have created large-scale projects that propelled the Palestin­ian cause.

However, it remains that the ori­gins of Palestinian graffiti, the in­crease in global attention and the ever-prominent representation of Palestinian solidarity through the visual medium has taken away from the importance of the aesthetics of the work and the artists behind the work.

“Palestinian graffiti is neverthe­less becoming increasingly refined and aesthetically complex, most especially in Gaza,” Lovatt com­mented.

He said, “The way in which the global art form of graffiti has been localised by Palestinian artists, such as the inclusion and adaptation of Arabic calligraphy, has resulted in an increasingly rich and unique art form.”

But Palestinian graffiti is seen first and foremost as an expression of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.

“Focusing on its didactic or po­litical value can detract from ap­preciating Palestinian graffiti on the merits of its aesthetics alone. Some­times a square is just a square and nothing more,” Lovatt said.

But Seedawi emphasises how important it is for Gazan graffiti art­ists to relay messages on the Israeli siege and destruction in the Gaza Strip.

He said, they will “continue to colour” the walls of destruction, and “continue to hope” that Pales­tinian graffiti is not only used as a symbol of suffering and protest, but as an art movement towards collec­tive justice.





Banksy at the West Bank barrier

Keeping his identity a closely guarded secret, the graffiti artist Banksy has made a name for himself with provocative images stencilled around the streets of London.

Here we show a selection of images from his recent trip to the Palestinian territories, where he has created nine of his images on Israel’s highly controversial West Bank barrier.

Art attack



Window on the West Bank
Indicating why he undertook the trip from London, where he made his name as a ‘guerilla’ artist, Banksy’s website says the West Bank barrier is “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”.


Balloon debate
During his visit to the West Bank, Banksy created nine images along the barrier, most of them provocative without being directly polemical.


Cut it out
During the visit to Ramallah and surrounding areas, Banksy reports some tense moments. His spokeswoman Jo Brooks said: “The Israeli security forces did shoot in the air threateningly and there were quite a few guns pointed at him.”



Unwelcome intervention
Banksy also records on his website how an old Palestinian man said his painting made the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him, only to be told: ‘We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.’




















Why We Dance: Debke and Contemporary Dance in Palestine

By Eric Reidy

Debke is an Arabic folk dance which is performed throughout the Levantine region. In Palestine, as Eric Reidy discovered when he met local dance troupe El-Funoun, debke is being reinvented as a means of preserving traditional culture and reflecting contemporary life in the Palestinian Territories.dance

As night slowly blanketed the southern West Bank village of Beit Omar on a Thursday in late summer, the town’s residents filed into the outdoor athletic space, sunk in beneath a high cement wall, at the local school. Those who did not find a place inside crowded behind a chain-link fence at the top of the wall or perched on rooftops with a view of the stage. The residents were gathered for a debke performance by El-Funoun, a popular dance troupe based just an hour and a half drive away in Ramallah.

‘In Beit Omar, they will speak about this performance until they die,’ says Anas AbuOun, a dancer and Funoun’s Activities Coordinator. The village is largely poor and does not have the resources to support cultural activities of its own. So, the debke performance was potentially a once in a lifetime experience for residents who cannot afford to travel to see cultural events elsewhere in the West Bank.

El-Funoun’s style of debke also differs greatly from the debke danced during festive occasions in Palestinian culture. Traditional debke only consists of 10 to 15 steps set to three songs. The performance in Beit Omar involved more than 1000 steps accompanied by songs El-Funoun has collected from Palestinian folk musicians, AbuOun says.

Change, especially related to culture, is often regarded with skepticism or fear in Palestinian society. Such negative reactions stem from the fact that Palestinian identity has come under sustained pressure throughout the course of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. ‘The Israeli occupation… is also more of a cultural occupation,’ emphasizes Majd Hajjaj, a contemporary dancer and Public Relations Officer at Sarreyet Ramallah.

‘The victim… will try with all his power, all his strength, to save his identity,’ AbuOun adds. ‘Debke is a part of this.’

‘[It] portrays our cultural heritage… be it traditional jobs like handcrafts, harvesting the crops, the making of food and bread, or the Palestinian wedding,’ Hajjaj continues.

As such, audiences are largely receptive when debke pushes social norms and conventions, as happened during El-Funoun’s performance in Beit Omar. The village, located close to Hebron, is in an area of the West Bank known for being more conservative than other parts of Palestinian society. El-Funoun’s performance was the first time women performed on stage in the village. However, the presence of women onstage was a subtext to the revelry of the crowd caught up in the stories of El-Funoun’s dances.

We are sharing the same ground. We are talking on the same level… If you look at Funoun’s performances and productions, it’s all about Palestine,’ AbuOun says, which makes people more receptive to change because they can relate to the stories being told on a collective level.

‘Debke is always societal,’ Hajjaj says. But, it is also important to tell individual and personal stories. ‘It doesn’t always have to be collective,’ she adds. ‘It can be, and we have better audiences when it has to do with representing Palestine.’

Sareyyet Ramallah, however, has begun to establish a base for contemporary dance in Palestine by starting a contemporary dance school, company and festival.


El-Funoun Dance Troupe – Palestine