Palestine in Black and White collects over a 100 pieces of art from Mohammad Sabaaneh, a Palestinian graphic artist who has spent time in prison as a result of his work. Seth Tobocman provides an intro and explains,
“When I look at the drawings of Mohammad Sabaaneh, I see the tortured, compressed, and crowded space that is everyday life for ordinary Palestinians.”
Beginning with a short history of Israel over the last 95 years, from the mandate given by the British to the League of Nations to the continued attacks on Israel’s Palestinians and the ongoing rejection by Palestinians of ‘the concept of a Jewish exclusivist state’, the book boldly states its point of view, and we know that it’s a point of view that isn’t shared by everyone (for everyone who would defend Palestinian’s right to object to, you know, being run off their land, imprisoned, terrorised and killed, there will be those who claim that Palestinians at least give as good as they get).
Then we get into the art that Sabaaneh produced while he was in prison, sketches he made and sneaked out to touch up at a later date – and these pieces of work are both heartbreaking and defiant: images of families and children boxed in by metal walls, children chained in cells, houses crushing houses, faceless abstracts beaten down by guns and gateways, land rolled up like carpet, coffins from which Palestinian flags are raised, walls looped into infinity signs behind which soldiers aim guns and mothers wean babies, crowds in tents hiding from guns and tanks and helicopters – and so it goes. Sabaaneh tries to identify the ways in which the system oppresses the oppressors as much as the oppressed (one striking image shows oppressor and oppressed trapped within a bottle like a model ship) – but it is a struggle Sabaaneh admits, a struggle brought viciously to life in a bar code that bleeds down a wall disappearing behind the corpse of a child.
It’s powerful stuff, as you’d expect; important and valuable. Sabaaneh is working hard to shine a light on a situation that seems as irresolvable as the US gun issue.
Any Cop?: It’s a book that matters.