The Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy Community and the US Consulate brought 25 At Risk Palestinian girls together from East Jerusalem to make a monument for the organization Head Quarters in the West Bank.
As the teenage girls entered the American house in East Jerusalem, the faces were shy and adorned with abashed smiles of perplexity. As we all sat around to discuss the mural, the looks turned from quiet pensiveness to contemplative interest. They understood the premise for the workshop, and drew. As we hung the drawings, similar to other Palestinian communities, the drawings were brimming with Politicized imagery. These ranged from “Free Gaza” with dead children below, Jewish stars crossed out, “ Free Palestine” and intense nationalistic sentiments.
Yet amongst the brutal and politicized drawings, was an image of the whole country, with a key hole in the center, and a key turning. The discussion became how we could take all these images and make something meaningful together. The concept became a woman filled with people turning a key to the land, coming out a the divider wall and ending with a man pointing at the future that the Palestinian people are looking towards.
The paint came out, and the serious and Hijabed teenage girls adorned aprons, and let the paint take hold. The expression was contagious, and the drawings came to cover the paint ground. The girls made the painting as though it was a machine which was building itself. Details came to arise, giving each element a depth of meaning. The Woman’s face became painted blue with blond hair, and a deep blue was painted for the wall slicing the canvas in half. Two hands emerged from the woman, one garbed in blue pointing to the sky, one with red, holding a green, red and black key inside a keyhole at the center of the country. The Ha’attat, a traditional Palestinian head covering, of the man became filled with black people, looking to be running, dancing, as well as lying down, and possibly dead. The entire background filled with green hills, rolling behind all of the elements, and a church and a Mosque showed up in the foreground. The man grew white lines spewing from his mouth, and ending in housing morphing into a bird full of light.
The meaning of all of this is too complex to have only a singular meaning. As is the conflict of the Middle East. Yet, despite this charged and poetic imagery, a final series of comments were made which illuminate much about the story behind the image. The first was one of the teenage Palestinian girls who spoke articulately about here intense distain for Muslim extremism, and that many people on all sides speak of hate, .” Many talk, but we are the ones who live this life everyday”. She believed the statement the painting made was about freedom, not about religion. As the piece came to a close, the final comment made was by one of the MEND leaders, and the last woman to paint on the piece. She had a light of color in her eye, and said “ What we made today, was a miracle. Turning a white canvas into a beautiful story in one day, with these girls in this time and in this part of the world, that is the true miracle.”