Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Palestinian resistance in the streets of San Francisco


By Alicia Ramos Perez - July 03, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Culture] [Features]
Tags: [culture] [artist] [Right of Return]

The walls of San Francisco are adorned with Palestinian women, men, children, keys depicting the refugee right of return and Arabic calligraphy. Young artist C.Gazaleh from the Bay area has an aim: to create awareness and spread solidarity through art on a big scale. 

He is making sure that the Palestinian presence is felt through the murals of San Francisco.
 
“The first thing I would like to evoke is love,” Gazaleh told Palestine Monitor. This as well as unity are some of the feelings C.Gazaleh’s works evoke.
 
Gazaleh, from San Francisco and third generation Palestinian in America, has been painting since he was 14.
 
Palestinians in the diaspora are having an opportunity to create social understanding and awareness of the ongoing conflict. With his work, Gazaleh represents the oppression his people are living under and sheds light on these issues to create a dialog through visibility.
 
Gazaleh’s art unifies Palestinian symbols of resistance such as 'the Key of Return’, which represents the willingness of Palestinian people to return to their homes after the Nakba of 1948.
 
His murals feature men carrying the Keffiyeh - a national political symbol, women dressed in Palestinian traditional embroidery as well as the skyline of Palestinian villages.
 
 
Gazaleh’s art is a big step forward for representation of the Arab community in San Francisco. “The one thing I must say is that, Arab art in America is [something] that is culturally lacking. We do have producers and artists, but they don’t inject their identity and their politics in the things they do.”
 
Even so, Gazaleh confessed that “our generation is starting to create more political art, which will inspire the following generations of Palestinians in the diaspora. Everything is political, my art is political.”
 
When asked about his beginnings in the art world, Gazaleh gave an intimate insight of what moved him to create street art.
 
“My first political art was illegal. I come from a broken home and I was living in a bad environment. I guess the one thing that saved me and kept me out of that environment was my community. So, I started to learn more about my roots, about my culture.”
 
Gazaleh has always been exposed to the Palestinian culture, his grandparents made sure he knew everything that was going on in Palestine while being in the US.
 
“It is hard for me to ignore the reality.”
 
In 2007 he decided to visit the home of his family in Ramallah. During his trip, he wondered what he could do for the Palestinians still living under occupation. “I was asking: what is the best thing I could do to help?” The answer from the Palestinians was easy: “just spread the word, tell people what is going on. Make people aware of what is happening.” And so he did, creating over ten murals all around San Francisco.
 
When it comes to recognition, Gazaleh said “the main credit I have had for my murals are the people on the street seeing it,” however, he did add that support is lacking. While The Institute for Middle Eastern Understanding helped with the inauguration and press outreach of his latest mural, 'Humanity is the Key’ on June 16, yet no news agencies attended.
 
When asked about the reasons, Gazaleh said that he felt “people don’t want to talk about it, as long as Palestinians don’t boycott and divest, their business will be running fine.”
 
The Oakland Palestine Solidarity Mural
 
One of the projects Gazaleh has created is a 157-foot-long mural in partnership with twelve different artists, including another Palestinian. The mural is located in the downtown section of Oakland, US.
 
The mural is composed by nine separate panels which utilize the imagery of a tree to symbolise struggle and resistance. This collaboration, organised by Art Forces, the Estria Foundation and NorCal Friends of Sabeel, aimed to express solidarity with the ongoing Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid.
 
A very special guest artist, Dina Matar from Gaza, collaborated in this splendid mural. However, Israel refused to grand Matar permission to leave the Gaza Strip. Instead, Matar’s art work was sent to a member of the organising committee and artist Susan Green, who carried out the painting of the mural on the wall instead.
 
Gazaleh explained Palestinian artists in the diaspora can also serve as a channel to export art from areas in Palestine. In this case, regardless of the Israeli occupation, Matar’s art work had a possibility to be contemplated and admired by the rest of the world, sending a powerful message of resistance.  
 
“The mural of Oakland is definitively a tunnel to export art,” Gazaleh said. “But to be honest, I also feel I am a channel, I am really just trying to speak out for my people back home with my art. I am not the one living under occupation, but my cousins back home are, and people are trying to get by.”
 
The Oakland mural is also the unity of ethnic minorities battling against oppression, all unifying their personal story to Palestine. The contributing artists came from different backgrounds, proving that transnational grassroots movements are an effective means to support Palestine.
 
“People I work with, are also working around the immigrant rights and these are issues which affect smaller ethnic minorities and indigenous groups living in underprivileged communities in United States,” Gazaleh explained.
 
Gazaleh keeps inspiring and awakens a call for the appreciation of Palestinian art.
 

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