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Graffiti in Palestine's camps

During the First Intifada, with Palestinians often confined to their houses under lengthy curfews the clandestine scrawling of messages on walls in refugee camps, cities and villages became acts of resistance. These messages became like newspapers or today’s social media, acting as places to mobilise people or publicize news. Messages would often only be visible for a few hours before they were spotted by patrolling Israeli soldiers and local children were forced to whitewash them.

With the arrival of the Palestinian Authority and their theoretical ‘control’ – at least on paper – of Palestinian city centres, these traditions of writing messages on walls began to develop in to more detailed paintings whilst the national themes – resistance, return, identity – often remained constant.

Israel’s Apartheid Wall later became a canvas for some, although many Palestinians rejected this notion believing the Wall should not be touched with colours in fear of diluting the acknowledgement of its devastating effects. These acts were referred to by some as ‘beautification’ while others went as far as calling painting on the wall ‘normalisation’ with the occupation.

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Away from the Wall, a walk around any Palestinian refugee camp today will highlight the fact that this Palestinian practice remains alive and is a constantly developing work in progress. Images of martyrs and leaders, as well nationalistic images and those calling for resistance in various forms turn Palestinian refugee camps in to public galleries yet often they remain calls for mobilisation rather than mere remembrance.

Amongst the latest images to appear are portraits of some of the many young Palestinians who have been killed recently and the constantly growing list of political prisoners. Alongside them, images of former national leaders rather than those currently at the helm also continue to appear – perhaps reflecting the growing frustrations with current internal politics.

As the struggle for Palestinian rights continues, and with the number of deaths and arrests increasing on what has become virtually a daily basis, the number of new wall paintings continues to expand. Content is never is short supply in Palestine for political graffiti. In this way, the walls of Palestinian refugee camps continue to reflect the political realities as they have done since the early days of the First Intifada, only today, there seems to be much less hope.

Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.

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