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Meet the anonymous artist reminding the world that apartheid won’t stop Palestinians living

The illegal Separation Wall Israel has built on Palestinian land tells the story not only of the occupation’s oppression of Palestinians, but through art it also highlights their ability to survive and prosper in spite of this oppression

January 25, 2024 at 5:45 pm

In the heart of the occupied West Bank, amidst the concrete expanse of Israel’s illegal Separation Wall, a mysterious European artist known only by the online persona “Cakes Stencils” is using his craft to create a visual narrative of the enduring struggle of Palestinians. His canvases are the harsh walls of the oppressive structure, but his art transcends the concrete reality, telling a poignant tale of resistance and resilience.

“I am working in the public space to give people the opportunity to rethink the wall and see how people suffer because of apartheid,” Cakes Stencils tells MEMO. His art, along with that of many others, adorns the Separation Wall, turning it into a canvas that protests the Israeli occupation and calls for freedom for Palestinians.

The artist, who has made nearly 20 daring trips to the occupied West Bank, shares his experiences of navigating the perilous landscape. Cakes Stencils reveals: “Because I travelled there to the area so many times, I know which watchtowers are occupied by the soldiers and which watchtowers are empty. So, I understand which time is the best to paint on the wall.”

Faced with soldiers yelling from watchtowers, Cakes Stencils returns time and again until his artwork is complete and has so far been able to remain anonymous to the occupation. The first stencil, completed in 2017, depicts a girl skipping using barbed wire, symbolising the resilience of Palestinian children in the face of the daily struggle of life surrounded by Israeli occupation forces.

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In an act of defiance against the ongoing apartheid regime, Cakes Stencils captures the essence of Palestinian life and resistance in his art. “It shows that the kids in Palestine have fun, they are trying to have fun, even if the apartheid regime is there. Even if the soldiers intimidate these kids. They don’t lose hope. They can still have a great time,” Cakes Stencils explains.

His risky endeavours invite viewers to confront the stark realities of apartheid and reflect on the day-to-day life of Palestinians. “I’m trying to give them the idea that the occupation and the apartheid is not only the wall, but that bad things happen to the Palestinian people, to the kids. Kids are killed because of the occupation. Palestinians are dying because of the occupation.”

Cakes Stencils challenges misconceptions about the Separation Wall, emphasising that it is not “a border” between Israel and Palestine, but a structure perpetuating apartheid, preventing people from accessing their own land. The illegal West Bank barrier, spanning 710 kilometres, disrupts the lives of Palestinians, restricting their movement and swallowing their lands. It remains standing and is being expanded, despite being initially presented as a temporary security measure by Israel two decades ago.

“Having the kids playing with the barbed wire in my art also shows that the Palestinian people are strong, they still find their way to enjoy life, they have dreams. That is the main message behind the barbed wire.”

In a world where the ongoing bombardment of Gaza continues to grab headlines, Cakes Stencils uses his art to encourage critical thought, reminding people that Palestinians, like all people, deserve freedom, and the Separation Wall is one of the barriers to this aspiration. Through his anonymous but impactful work, he contributes to a global conversation on justice, freedom and the enduring strength of the Palestinian people.