sungazaWhat do you see in the smoke rising from an explosion? As Israeli airstrikes explode over Gaza, Palestinian photographer Belal Khaled turns death into art, seeing symbols of resistance in the clouds of smoke.

Similar to how children and day dreamers might interpret shapes in the sky, Khaled turns the Gaza airstrikes into something wistful and new. The simple but touching images bring a childlike quality to a tragic situation. The smoke pictures have doodles, like a hand or face, to illustrate what he sees.


Belal Khaled says the aim is to “reflect reality through art,” which he said could be used as a form of resistance. Simple as they are, these images make you look again:

Given all the images of war these days, it can be challenging to really stop and look at any one single photo.  But every once in a while there’s a picture that makes you do just that.

Gazan blogger Refaat Alareer has been collecting the images, which have been shared on social media, on his blog.

By Toufic Jibril
By Toufic Jibril
By Toufic Jibril




I was not alone in being reminded of Mahmoud Darwish’s lines “we have on this land all of that which makes life worth living.”

Here is Darwish reading this poem together with another on the same theme: “We love life whenever we can”:


We have on this earth what makes life worth living:
April’s hesitation,
the aroma of bread at dawn,
a woman’s opinion of men,
the works of Aeschylus,
the beginning of love,
grass on a stone,
mothers living on a flute’s sigh and
the invaders’ fear of memories.

We have on this earth what makes life worth living:
the final days of September,
a woman keeping her apricots ripe after forty,
the hour of sunlight in prison,
a cloud reflecting a swarm of creatures,
the peoples’ applause for those who face death with a smile,
a tyrant’s fear of songs.

We have on this earth what makes life worth living:
on this earth, the Lady of Earth,
mother of all beginnings and ends.
She was called Palestine. Her name later became
Palestine. My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life.

We love life whenever we can.
We dance and throw up a minaret or raise palm trees for the violets growing between two martyrs.
We love life whenever we can.
We steal a thread from a silk-worm to weave a sky and a fence for our journey.
We open the garden gate for the jasmine to walk into the street as a beautiful day.
We love life whenever we can.
Wherever we settle we grow fast-growing plants, wherever we settle we harvest a murdered man.
We blow into the flute the colour of far away, of far away, we draw on the dust in the passage the neighing of a horse.
And we write our names in the form of stones. Lightning brighten the night for us, brighten the night a little.
We love life whenever we can


And then there is this, Rafeef Ziadeh’s We Teach Life Sir, which she wrote the last time the bombs were falling on Gaza, when she was asked: “Don’t you think it would all be fine if you just stopped teaching your children to hate?”

There is a lot of material out there on Palestinian art as “resistance” – but not much about the day to day struggles faced by Palestinian artists. Here is one article, published a couple of days ago, which does go into these subjects, where the writer reflects on “artistic origins of Palestinian artists, their upheavals and the visibility and significance of Palestinian art today.”

Hagar Art Gallery in Jaffa defines today’s Palestinian art field by three key elements: “Palestinian artists residing in four separate geographical territories who share a national culture despite the geographic differences; the absence of “Palestinian” institutions of art studies and training throughout the world, including the Palestinian Authority; and the absence of a historical museum infrastructure.”

The article also addresses the censorship faced by some artists, looking at the cases of Khaled Jarrar, who was prevented from attending the Here and Elsewhere exhibition, Rehab Nazzal whose work was deemed to be “glorifying terror” and Larissa Sansour, whose work was deeemed to be too “pro-Palestinian.”

The article continues:

Palestinian art seeks to redefine its national identity, and distinguish this identity from the external perceptions of war perpetually shown in the media. It is rare for Palestine to make international news for anything other than conflict.


In related news, Portland’s Mahrajan Arab Festival has been cancelled, with the organizers saying that “events in the Gaza and other parts of the Middle East made it difficult to celebrate during “such a somber time.””

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