Brushstrokes of hope: The Heroes of Palestine mural project


Just last month, prominent Palestinian journalists reporting on the ground started to leave Gaza, as Israel’s onslaught on Gaza and Palestine persists. Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh and photojournalist Motaz Azaiza are among those who have left.

As it is known, Palestinian journalists, who work tirelessly amid Israel’s ongoing occupation, encounter formidable challenges that significantly affect their ability to report accurately and safely.

Safety concerns continue to be paramount as journalists operate in areas subject to bombings and airstrikes, putting their personal security at risk.

“In the context of Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, the mural paintings assume a crucial role as poignant expressions of resistance, resilience, and the collective spirit of the community facing adversity”

Furthermore, journalists are direct targets of military actions, experiencing arrests, detentions, and assaults, indicating efforts to suppress information and restrict coverage.

Censorship measures and restrictions on movement and access are prevalent, limiting journalists’ ability to report freely. The disruption of infrastructure and communication channels also poses obstacles, hindering timely and accurate information dissemination.

The psychological toll of witnessing and reporting on traumatic events adds another layer of hardship for journalists. Economic pressures in Gaza, compounded by Israel’s blockade, contribute to job insecurity and financial challenges within the media industry.

Despite these difficulties, journalists from Palestine display resilience, courage, and a commitment to providing crucial insights into the human impact of the occupation. Their work remains vital in conveying the complexities of the situation and contributing to global understanding.

Wael Al-Dahdouh, Palestinian journalist and bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Gaza City [photo credit: Nacho Welles/Creative Debuts]

‘Heroes of Palestine’

To honour Palestinian journalists, murals have been erected across the UK, with Calum Hall, founder of Creative Debuts, playing a notable role in pushing forward the Palestinian cause.

Creative Debuts has earned acclaim within the emerging art community for its authentic dedication to equality, diversity, and philanthropy.

The organisation collaborates with many artists from marginalised groups and administers multiple charitable grants to support those in need of financial assistance.

Plestia Alaqad, Instagrammer turned citizen journalist turned war reporter [photo credit: Ed Hicks/Creative Debuts]

Notably, Creative Debuts has recently initiated the ‘Heroes of Palestine’ project, a commendable effort to celebrate the courage of journalists risking their lives to depict the stark reality of life in Gaza.

This project has resulted in impactful murals featuring journalists such as: Motaz Azaiza by Barny Zadok (Location: Leake Street Tunnel, London); Bisan Owda by Lours (Location: Brixton, London); Hind Khoudary by Lucy Danielle (Location: Shoreditch, London); Wael Al-Dahdouh by Nacho Welles (Location: Shoreditch, London); Plestia Alaqad by Ed Hicks (Location: Hackney Wick, London); Doaa Albaz by Itaewon (Location: Mile End, London).

Gazan photojournalist, photographer, and filmmaker, Motaz Azaiza [photo credit: Barny Zadok/Creative Debuts]

In an exclusive interview with Hall, the ‘Heroes of Palestine’ project was established with a specific purpose in mind.

The art entrepreneur and founder of Creative Debuts shared with The New Arab: “We’ve come to know these journalists during incredibly heartbreaking times, and they are genuinely putting their lives on the line to show the world what’s happening. As a white man living in the West, it’s crucial for me to leverage whatever platform and privilege I have to raise awareness and stand in solidarity with Palestine and with the Palestinians. What’s truly important for me is to highlight and discuss the significant work they are doing.”

Reflecting on the significance of mural paintings during times of conflict, street art, particularly murals, emerges as a poignant and dynamic form of expression.

Art as resistance

Murals and street art play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political landscape during periods of turmoil. In these turbulent times, street art serves as a powerful avenue for dissent, offering individuals a public platform to voice their opinions on pressing issues that may otherwise be suppressed or restricted.

The inherent visibility of street art becomes a potent tool for raising awareness and directing attention to overlooked or underreported conflicts, human rights violations, and social injustices.

Doaa Albaz, Palestinian photographer from the Gaza Strip [photo credit: Itaewon/Creative Debuts]

Crucially, street art is not merely a one-way communication channel; it fosters community engagement and solidarity. Artists often involve local residents in the creation process, transforming the act of mural painting into a communal effort. This shared participation builds a sense of collective identity and resistance, amplifying the impact of the art and reinforcing the community’s resilience in the face of adversity.

Beyond immediate concerns, street art becomes a visual chronicle of a community’s history and culture during times of conflict. Murals depict historical events, symbols, and figures that hold profound significance, serving as a resistance against attempts to erase or manipulate the collective memory.

The humanising aspect of street art is also pronounced, as artists portray the faces and stories of individuals affected by conflict, adding a personal dimension to the broader narrative.

Hind Al-Khoudary is a Palestinian journalist based in the Gaza Strip [photo credit: Lucy Danielle/Creative Debuts]

In some instances, street art transcends its role as a form of protest and becomes a catalyst for peacebuilding and healing. Murals conveying messages of unity, reconciliation, and hope contribute to rebuilding communities in the aftermath of conflict, fostering a positive atmosphere and inspiring resilience.

Simultaneously, street art challenges authority by reclaiming public spaces for alternative narratives, offering a visual counterpoint to oppressive regimes and challenging the prevailing status quo.

Bisan Owda, Palestinian filmmaker, activist, and journalist from Gaza [photo credit: Lours/Creative Debuts]

Street art for Palestine

In the context of Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza and Palestine, the mural paintings assume a crucial role as poignant expressions of resistance, resilience, and the collective spirit of the community facing adversity.

These artworks serve as visual narratives documenting the daily struggles and aspirations of individuals affected by the occupation, capturing the human stories often overshadowed by geopolitical complexities. The murals contribute to raising international awareness by conveying the human cost of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and fostering empathy on a global scale.

Symbolising a commitment to cultural identity, these artworks become a powerful tool for preserving and asserting the unique heritage of the people in Gaza, resisting attempts to erase or suppress their identity.

Furthermore, the murals advocate for peace, justice, and dialogue, promoting healing within the community and empowering individuals to share their experiences.

By appealing to international solidarity, these murals play a role in encouraging support for peace initiatives and humanitarian efforts, fostering a collective hope for justice and resolution.

The murals featuring Palestinian journalists were entirely self-funded. In his upcoming project, Hall plans to commission artists to create mural paintings of Palestinian doctors saving lives in Gaza. Currently, this initiative is being promoted on a GoFundMe page to secure the necessary funds for initiating the project.

Zainab Mehdi is a Researcher and Freelance Journalist specialising in governance, development, and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa region

Follow her on Twitter: @zaiamehdi

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