In the occupied Palestinian territories the line between art and propaganda is a thin one.
Naturalist landscapes are painted from the collective memory of a diaspora. The gold of the Dome of the Rock mosque shines in the background. The green, red, white, and black of the flag snake through the foreground. It could have been a peaceful motif with shepherds in the shade of olive trees eating oranges from Jaffa.
But history has never smiled on the Palestinians. Theirs is one of dispossession and occupation. There art is one of struggle.
Once there was a Soviet flare. Those masters of agitprop left their imprint with the hammer, sickle, and fists. Harvesting the grain became synonymous with mowing down the enemy. The Soviets were the greatest champions of the world’s underdogs! In their propaganda, which was rivaled only by Goebbels or Edward Bernays, symbolism was the key.
Today the theme of apartheid is omnipresent, with the 20 foot high wall that separates Palestine from Israel providing the shared claustrophobic experience that is living under military occupation.
Then we come to the martyrs. In Palestine the narrative of resistance is written on every street corner; murals and posters depicting shaheed stare out from the dirty brick walls.
It is almost an iconic art; In Gaza you can buy photos of the fallen. They hang on the walls in houses and are venerated as modern day saints.
It begins when they are young; instead of sketching private parts on the wall like the youth in more stable regions they draw filthy little machine guns. In Palestine children grow up quickly, their rites of passage involve slingshots. But they don’t hunt squirrels.
Always one to steal from better artists around me I thought I would try my hand at propaganda.
It reads: Heroes are Born when Heroes Die.
All posters except “Heroes are Born” from the Palestinian Poster Archive project www.palestineposterproject.org