”Get mad — let the world know you are a magician, not bewitched” reads the text of street art in Ramallah by artist Hamza Abu Ayyash. Next to it is a stencil by artist Majd Abdel Hamid reading ’#OccupyWallStNotPalestine’ carrying a Twitter hashtag.
Hundreds of Palestinians jailed in Israel went on hunger strike this spring, inspiring many street artists, including Hamza Abu Ayyash. Here, a faceless prisoner has Israel and the Palestinian territories strapped to his back with his intestines.
“Freedom for Khader Adnan” is written next to a stencil of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan with a lock over his mouth. Adnan became an icon after going on hunger strike for 66 days and inspired not only other prisoners, but also activists who launched an extensive campaign of stenciled tags on Ramallah walls and on Israel’s West Bank separation wall.
In Al-Amari Refugee Camp near Ramallah, this mural depicts two fingers raised in a V-for-victory sign, against a Palestinian flag. Palestinian street art has traditionally been characterized by simple slogans and recurring symbols such as Palestinian flags, doves, chains and closed fists.
During the second Intifada (2000-2005), drawings of ‘martyrs’ — Palestinian killed by Israel — mushroomed on city walls. Many of these commemorative paintings can still be found throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, especially in refugee camps like this one, Deheishe Refugee Camp, in Bethlehem.
A young Palestinian tags the word "Palestine" in Bethlehem. While graffiti is illegal in most Western countries many Palestinians welcome the decoration of their houses’ walls, but expect the message to be sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle.
Using city walls to address long-time taboos such as religion is a new phenomenon. This drawing in Ramallah shows a Christian cross inside the Islamic crescent next to the words "Religion is forgiveness."
A drawing of "Handala" is depicted in red paint on this Ramallah wall. Handala is a cartoon character of a Palestinian refugee child created by late artist Naji al-Ali, and one of the most recognizable symbols of the Palestinian struggle.
A stencil tag of Naji al-Ali with the message “25 years since al-Ali’s assassination” is painted on this wall in Ramallah. Famous for having fathered Handala, al-Ali was also very critical of the Palestinian leadership, which many Palestinians believe was the reason behind the unsolved murder in 1987.
“The Intifada continues” says a stencil tag with a red outline of the map of Israel and the Palestinian territories on this Ramallah wall. Below it someone wrote “Where?” The walls are not only used to get messages across but also for others to answer back.
Israel’s West Bank separation wall is a great canvas for political art. Here, at the Qalandia checkpoint near Ramallah, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and jailed Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouthi are portrayed on that segment of the eight-meter concrete wall. Most of the drawings are executed by foreign artists as many Palestinians refuse to “beautify the wall.”
A green stencil of a woman wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh with the word ”thouri” — revolt in Arabic — is tagged in the midst of Israeli street art in Jerusalem. A group of female Palestinian Jerusalemites use city walls in both Palestinian occupied East Jerusalem and Jewish West Jerusalem to mark their presence as Palestinians, as well as women.
These stencils were spray-painted in Hebron in southern West Bank.Though Palestinian street art has seen a boost in creativity and aesthetics, local artists and experts still characterize it as new and experimental.
The Arab spring has not only revolutionized street art but also inspired Palestinian artists to use city walls for creative political statements and to address social taboos — especially in Ramallah on the West Bank.