by Danielle Krikorian
"The performance of Palestinian culture is a symbol of solidarity and unity against a world that denies their rights and existence."
In May 2021, the Israeli regime attempted to illegally displace 38 Palestinian families from their homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. It escalated when the army attacked worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during Eid El Fitr. As Palestinians from all over Israel, the West-Bank and occupied territories rose in solidarity, Hamas responded by firing into Israel. For eleven days, Israel sent countless rockets into Gaza, tearing down media towers, and killing more than 248 people.
Many cultural organizations and activists were targeted. Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research in Bethlehem was raided by the IDF and destroyed during the airstrikes.
Amidst this despair, Palestinian voices and cultural institutions have risen demanding freedom and equal rights. So how does history, art, culture and activism fight the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?
Related: Art From Behind Kashmir's Information Blackout
Collective history and solidarity
Culture and history are key to keeping identity alive. Palestinian writer and historian Nur Masahla quotes Sa’di who says that collective memory and history “connects all Palestinians to a specific point in time that has become for them an ‘eternal present.”
Certainly, for Palestinians all over the globe and within Palestine this shared history and culture is a method of communication. It unites them in a world where they are deprived of being re-united in a Palestinian state.
The performance of Palestinian culture is a symbol of solidarity and unity against a world that denies their rights and existence.
History and intellect are the vehicles that counter the propaganda and false narratives which enable Zionists to perform ethnic cleansing.
Memory of love
Recent events prove that this memory and history is a reality - an ‘eternal present’ shown through Art, Photography and archival materials. These mediums provide a visual language that is Palestinian and cannot be erased.
In her work, Palestinian artist Juliana Seraphim (1934-2005, pictured at top of article) used dreamscapes and fantasy to delve into memories of her intimate and inner world. Seraphim was fourteen when her native city, Jaffa was attacked, after which her family was forced to flee to Lebanon. She drew her imagery from memories of her grandfather’s house in Jerusalem, whose ceiling had colourful frescos.
Her contemporaries like Palestinian artist Ismail Shammout (1930-2006) employed a pictorial language that would represent the Palestinian refugee experience. Where to? (1953) displays the Lydda Death March in July 1948 (during the Nakba) and the heartbreak and pain of exile. These visual representations of memory are still expressed today.
In her art, Palestinian artist Malak Mattar (2001-)’s paintings depict Palestinian aesthetics and the harrowing violence inflicted on them. The oil painting The Flower is a tribute to Iyad Al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic man who attended school to learn how to plant trees, cook and protect the environment.