An invitation to participate in the inaugural Nablus Festival, coordinated by Project Hope and the Municipality of Nablus in April / May 2016, resulted in the conceptualisation of a collaborative project to benefit Palestinian children and to advance solidarity with Palestine internationally. Through extended engagement with over 200 Palestinian children, photographic content, video footage and artwork was generated. This has been compiled in this calendar in order to foster a greater degree of understanding and awareness of Palestinian people and their everyday lives under Israeli occupation.
The project name SHAMSAAN, meaning “Two Suns” in Arabic, was inspired by the two suns in artwork by Ahmad Dawabsheh, aged 5, drawn in his hospital ward whilst recovering from severe burns in inflicted by an arson attack that claimed the lives of his baby brother and both parents. Although physically scarred and orphaned, he is a survivor. He filled his artwork with double the sunshine, revealing a tremendous positivity despite the injustice and dehumanisation suffered.
2017 marks fifty years of the occupation of Palestinian territories that violates international law and Palestinian human rights. The mechanisms that maintain and perpetuate this occupation remain firmly in place. Children suffer trauma arising from the constant conflict that surrounds them. Their life stories reveal a battle against overwhelming odds to lead a normal life.
Engagement through visual art has afforded children the opportunity to express themselves (on paper): to translate their fears, beliefs, sense of identity and dreams into a visual language.
The art and interviews conducted in the West Bank and Gaza in 2016 reflect the extreme hardship, violence, enormous degrees of brutality and military infiltration in everyday life. The presence of armoured tanks, guns, barbed wire, teargas and imprisonment are peppered throughout the stories. For children, spaces and times of play cannot be viewed without the looming threat of violent military interruption or attacks by Israeli civilian communities.
Several of the profiled children have themselves been arrested, jailed, beaten and had their familial nucleus torn apart. They encounter armed military personal on their way to school, checkpoints and face legal obstructions to their dreams, paths to the ocean, the mountains, their ancestral homes, and future aspirations. Their expressive artwork speaks loudly and eloquently to the world in a universal visual language.
“It is clear to the reader that these children exude a will to live. They dream of a better future beyond a pervasive system of occupation and incremental ethnic cleansing. These are children who have grown into maturity rapidly, are able to engage in political and social activism and to debate analytically with confidence and independent perception,” said Dr Faisal Suliman, the chairperson of the South African Muslim Network (Samnet)/
“Many are active participants in organisations in their communities and are trailblazers in their own right. To point this out is to not diminish, “or gloss over”, the very serious degree of trauma Palestinian children suffer, but rather, to celebrate their vitality and human spirit.”
“In this calendar we have juxtaposed a selection of the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights espoused by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), that is ratified by Israel and Palestine, to the children’s narratives. Palestinian minors are subjected to Israeli military law and all too often these international frameworks fail in their intended aims.”
SAMNET said the Children’s Art Calendar presents a perfect opportunity to introduce over the course of the 2017 year, physical engagement and dialogue on Palestine, in homes and office spaces internationally. The website www.shamsaan.org in English and Arabic, is a conduit for interested persons to access more information on the Palestinian people and to connect with appropriate and creditable Palestinian civil society and solidarity groups. The over-arching intention is to introduce a few of the many other young Palestinian souls that may otherwise be rendered mere statistics. VOC