“Art and Homeland’s Agony”: An online get-together exploring the role and message of Palestinian arts

Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad
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On Tuesday, 9 June 2020, the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad (PCPA) held an artistic get-together, titling it “Art and Homeland’s Agony.”

Held on Zoom, the online gathering brought together a number of Palestinian artists, who discussed at leisure art’s influence on and role in the Palestinian struggle.

Starting first, the surgeon and caricaturist Alaa Allagta pointed to the relationship between arts and the Palestinian cause. He said:

“The liberation of Palestine requires solidarity and the creation of a multiplicity of means. We, as the people of an occupied land, are entitled to defend our stolen rights with all legitimate tools, one of which is art.”

Considering art a universal language that acknowledges no borders, while being a voice difficult to stifle, he added:

“Several societies and nations, no matter to what nationality they belong, might not get what you are saying; but they do when you resort to art.”

Allagta stated that the Israeli occupation continues to depict the Palestinian people as a violator, one that loves blood and incapable of understanding other language but that of force. Nonetheless, he said, the Palestinian art responded to the occupation with eloquence, showing that the Palestinian people do really have a weapon, however, different in nature, which he called:

“a soft one; not that of fire, for Palestinians are people who have a lot of love in store, originating from their unprecedented interest in art.”

He also spoke of the art of caricature, saying that, “It is the art of dark comedy, the deep thoughts and meanings, which sums up too much talk through simple lines; they are simple but more powerful than a frenzy of bullets.”

Several of the caricaturist’s works were displayed and explained to the followers.

The artist Raed Qatanani, for his part, highlighted the role of the visual message, saying that it is more effective and communicates its content faster than long speeches.

He added that when an artist uses his brush to depict homeland’s agony, he transcends his position as a mere artist, and becomes one with a message and a goal.

He stated:

“We do not paint for fun, we do it because we have an occupied homeland, the suffering of which we want to express, in addition to a national message that we would like to channel, which is that we are a resilient people that uses all its available resources to resist the occupation.”

He also analyzed a number of his paintings, recounting their messages and the ideas that first triggered them.

Speaking of turning situations into proverbs and the manner with which songs and ballads are written, the host of Haki be-alfalastini (Talk Palestinian), poet Samer Issa recited a number of his poems, including the following, commemorating martyr Omar Abu Lila:

Every time my eyes get a glimpse of your face

I see moons

Poetic letters escape me and wander

How shall I describe, I am at a loss

To your soul, I write

About the enemy’s defeat, I write

I describe the features of clam

In your face, full of lights

When I heard,

When I heard the news

Salience at home shook

Is it possible?

That face, the moon-like

Is the hero of Salfit

In addition to poems, Issa commented that, “The arts answer an instinct inherent in humans, one of beauty, taste and pursuit of happiness and joy. In the art of the laugh, also there is an answer to another instinct, one of poetry, literature and arts which seek to pave the way into the soul. In the song and the passionate voice, there is a glimpse of hope at the end of a dark tunnel.”

He added that arts target in humans those parts where a revolution resides, through arts “they can say no, in the shape of yes.”

The poetess Ahlam al-Hanafi also remarked on the different forms of Palestinian art, including embroidery, Palestinian cuisine, songs, ballads and plastic arts, referring to the occupation’s attempt to steal them, and the Palestinian people’s resistance by preserving art and holding it dear in their hearts.

Source: The cover photo is a caricature by Alaa Allagta.

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