Art Projects with Children of Palestine 2015
Project Spotlight: Palestine
“Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.” - Khalil Gibran
The Beautiful Project was invited by the Barefoot Artists Organization (led by the amazing humanitarian and artist, Lily to work at several sites inPalestine (Nablus and the West Bank) in 2015. We artists were to work with leaders, practice art making with the community, and learn more about Palestine.
During our time in Palestine we were genuinely and warmly welcomed by the Palestinians. We were invited into their homes, lives and hearts, and through those experiences and the hours of hours and hours of conversations and interviews, we learned of the ongoing Palestinian struggle that extended back for over 75 years.
Map of Palestine in 1947 published by
A Shrinking Palestine from 1947 - 2005
Al Aqaba Mural Project
Al Aqaba, a small village in the West Bank, remains under constant threat of demolition. We were able to work closely with Haj Sami, the Mayor and a committed advocate for peace, to create something beautiful to honor the community.
In recognition of Haj Sami's courage and the villagers' unwavering pursuit of peace, dignity, and a better future for their children, we created this mural, deisgned by Lily, called “Once upon a time, there was the land of Palestine,” honoring the people’s deep emotion of trauma and loss. The figures of two children, a boy and a girl, at the suggestion of Haj Sami as the symbol of their future. This symbolic artwork reflects their dedication to achieving these aspirations through peaceful means, including education, art, entrepreneurship, and construction.
The Al Aquaba mural we created with Barefoot Artists and Lily Yeh titled, “Once upon a time, there was the land of Palestine,” before the 1948 Nakba, the Catastrophe, and before apartheid oppression and the brutal ethnic cleansing.
In 1972, when Mayor Haj Sami was 16 years old, he was hit by three bullets fired by an Israeli soldier during a training exercise. In his long recuperation in Israel, in the care of kind doctors and nurses at the Tel HaShomer Hospital, he learned to face life as a paraplegic and decided that no one, neither Palestinian nor Israeli, should ever suffer his fate. His priority has always been to keep the children and his village safe and promote human rights with honesty, kindness, creativity, and perseverance. This is his wonderful legacy.
Portrait of Peace Activist Haj Sami painted by Rob Shetterly
Nablus, Palestine - "To Resist is to Exist"- Mural Project and Children's Workshop
*Nestled in a valley between two striking, arid mountains, Mount Jarzim and Mount Etal, Nablus is very much the nerve centre of the upper West Bank. This beautiful, ancient city – known as the uncrowned Queen of Palestine – with narrow streets and arches, was built during the Ottoman era. Many of the residents, whose families have lived here for generations, are fiercely proud and protective of their land and heritage.
During the Second Intifada (Intifada meaning "Uprising"), the city endured brutal attacks from the Israeli occupying military. Numerous buildings were destroyed and families perished. Despite continued harassment and arrests, the determined citizens, in their resistance to occupation, have earned Nablus the honored name Mountain of Fire.
In Nablus, the Barefoot Artist Team held art workshops for the children in the city square. We also worked together to create a mural with a figure adorned with a kaffiyeh (a symbol of unity), emerging proudly from the ancient city. Holding the national flag that symbolizes the essence of Palestine's land and people, this creation swiftly transformed into an iconic image, spreading like wildfire across social media platforms.
Children's Art Workshops in Nablus City Square
Nablus Mural Project celebrating Peaceful Resistance
*"To Resist is to Exist"
The Palestinian slogan "to resist is to exist" could easily be reversed to say "to exist is to resist." For many Palestinians, simply remaining on their land and in their houses is a form of resistance
The Palestinian tradition of nonviolence is both old and very much alive today.
It reminds us of the words of Mahmud Darwish, the pre-eminent Palestinian poet:
And they searched his chest
But could only find his heart
And they searched his heart
And could only find his people.
Al-Fara Prison Interview Project
On Palestinian Prisoners Day, marked annually on April 17th, we joined the celebration to honor the resilience of the Palestinians. Since 1967, roughly 20% of the total Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 40% of the male population, has been arrested at least once. Of utmost concern in recent years, the Israeli military has increasingly detained children at an escalating rate, including by administrative detention. Since 2015, in total a third of all detentions concern children under the age of 18.**
Face painting with the children during Prisoner's Day Gathering
My beautiful Palestinian friend, Ayat and I, after she gifted me some of her handmade jewelry in Nablus. Her brother, AbduAllah, has been under illegal administrative detention, his identity card confiscated, and imprisoned by Israeli forces for over a year with no formal charges, nor trials, brought against him and they have not been able to make any contact with him or even know if he is still alive. She reports of other Palestinian prisoners coming out of Israeli prisons having been mistreated and tortured, many of them children.
**Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)