A State of Flux: The Artwork of Palestinian Youth

Palestinians are stateless. They are a people and they are a nation, but they have no state.

There are those who dwell in the same refugee camps they have been in for nearly 70 years since the war of 1948, which actualised Jewish statehood aspirations at the expense of Palestinian ones. The event is known as al-Nakbah, ‘the catastrophe’, by Palestinians. Others were forced into a life in the camps in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza after the Six Day War.

These camps and their inhabitants are spread across the Middle East. There are the internally displaced in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as those forced across borders into Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Across all these areas there are a staggering total of 5,094,886 registered Palestinian refugees living in UNRWA camps. These temporary places of refuge have slowly become concrete, both in their physical and political landscape. They have developed into towns and cities, their existence a living testimony both to the personal resilience of their populations and the repeated failures of peace in the region.

However, to be stateless in Palestine it is not necessary to live in a refugee camp or be a registered refugee. It is sufficient to simply be a Palestinian. The Oslo Accords of the 1990s were the last serious attempt to create a Palestinian state, but they have withered and become a symbol of bitterness for many. Efforts since have been superficial and unproductive, whilst relations have been hardened by violence and despair. Many Palestinians in the West Bank still live under full Israeli control and continue to see their land and livelihoods wrestled from them by settlers, the Israeli state, or both.

The struggles of daily life under occupation and generational frustration repeated anew are recurring themes of Palestinian life. They do not yet live in a state of Palestine, but only in a state of flux. Yet despite this, there remains an overwhelming sense of resilience and a determination to celebrate what defines Palestinians, not in relation to or as opposed to Israelis, but based upon their own history, culture, and attributes.

The pieces shown here are by children who live in the Jenin area and have been exhibited internationally, with some of them winning awards when shown in South East Asia. The pieces were provided by Yousef Awad, who is the director of the Jenin Creative and Cultural Centre and one of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement. It was this centre which provided a hub for youth in the area to express themselves through art.

It was set up in the aftermath of the second intifada, in which Jenin refugee camp was devastated by the IDF, with many killed and dozens of homes destroyed. The centre aims to promote the values of peace, reconciliation, non-violence and democracy whilst providing a place in which young Palestinians can develop skills and their education.

The emphasis the centre places on harnessing creativity for social good chimes with values we hold dear in Philanthrobeats, and demonstrates how they can be of true value even in the most trying of situations. More information on the Centre, including volunteer opportunities, can be found at their website: https://jenincreativeculturalcenter.wordpress.com/

Words: Susannah Fitzgerald

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