Palestine artists turn walls into canvas for hope

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Walking in a street of any Palestinian city, you can easily find walls covered with impressive murals of landscapes, portraits, or the symbols of the Palestinian nation…writes Sanaa Kamal

Since the 1980s, murals have gradually taken the walls of the enclave as Palestinian artists have been using them as a way to show their talents and a canvas to reflect the reality of the turbulent area.

Among the hundreds of artists who try to transform the walls, Hussam al-Sabaa, who lives in the West Bank city of Jenin, is one of the street masters.

Aged 60, al-Sabaa began his career of painting murals in Jenin 27 years ago. He said it is a great way to show his artistic creativity and to convey his ideas.

“These walls offer spaces to express our feelings about social issues, through which we can draw up a true picture of the reality that Palestinians live in,” said al-Sabaa, when he was painting a mural on a giant wall of Jenin.

On the wall al-Sabaa was working on, an old Palestinian woman sits next to a map of Palestine, looking sad with her head lowered.

Al-Sabaa said the struggle of the Palestinians is a repeated theme of his murals, adding that he believed the works of Palestinian artists are the mirrors of their society’s reality. By doing so, they translate their people’s feelings into murals that may live for many years.

“These paintings are not only aesthetic but are also part of preserving Palestinian history,” he said.

You can see large murals of elderly women sitting next to olive trees, and murals of Palestinian prisoners trying to break the chains, while aesthetic images that portray nature are not absent from the scene either.

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Taghreed Abu Shehab, another artist from Jenin, prefers to focus on hope, life, and optimism by drawing scenic landscapes and lovely children playing in public parks.

“I like to reflect the spirit of optimism and hope through my painting, to help people find strengths and happiness in their lives,” she told Xinhua while painting a mural of a Palestinian woman in an embroidered dress standing in nature.

“Every artist has his own view of life. There are people who like to paint landscapes and tranquil nature, some artists like to paint murals of the resistance, and others tend to paint murals with political implications,” she said.

This is also the case for Murshid Gharib, a 73-year-old painter from Jenin who has about 50 years of experience in painting murals.

“For many years, Palestinian artists have been eager to reflect the lives, hopes, and dreams of the Palestinian people on the walls in cities,” Gharib said.