Spring 2004

Land and liberation

Palestinian artists tell their people’s stories through symbols and allegory

In 1996 I produced an exhibition entitled ‘Both Sides of Peace: Palestinian and Israeli Political Poster Art’ with Sliman Mansour, Yossi Lemel, and Fawzy El Emrany. Lemel, a leading Israeli graphic designer, had introduced me to the many left-wing Israeli artists who also produced anti-occupation posters there: David Tartakover, Rami and Jacky and many others, and through their critical images I formed a new impression of the conflict – one that bore little resemblance to the one presented to the us public over the past 50 years. Yet it wasn’t until I travelled into the West Bank and Gaza that I began to understand fully the plight of the Palestinian people, and the way it was represented by their art and posters.

Sliman Mansour, head of the Palestinian Artists’ League and Director of the Al Wasiti Art Center in east Jerusalem, took me to a stationery shop in Ramallah to show me some Palestinian posters. ‘These are reproductions of paintings,’ I said, disappointed. ‘Dana,’ replied Mansour, ‘forget your notion of posters; these are our posters.’ I soon learned the visual language of a people forced to express their dispossession, grief and hope in symbols alone.


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