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Barefoot Artists in Al Aqaba, Palestine, 2015 Barefoot Artists in Al Aqaba, Palestine, 2015
The Al Aqaba mural: Once upon a time, there was the land of Palestine.

The Al Aqaba mural: Once upon a time, there was the land of Palestine.

Earlier this year, Barefoot Artists visited Al-Aqaba, a tiny village under the constant threat of being demolished. During the visit, Lily Yeh designed the mural entitled, Once Upon A Time, There Was The Land of Palestine, honoring the people’s deep emotion of trauma and loss. Rob Shetterly painted the figures of two children, a boy and a girl, at the suggestion of Haj Sami Sadiq, the Mayor of Al Aqaba, as the symbol of their future.

When he was 17, Haj Sami was severely wounded by three bullets from the Israeli army, during its military exercise outside of the village. One bullet is still lodged near his heart, too dangerous to be removed. The wounds paralyzed the lower part of his body and confined him to a wheel chair. Undaunted, and ever more determined, despite the daily pain he suffers, Haj Sami has been leading his people in their struggle against brutal occupation and injustice.

We painted the mural to honor the courage of Haj Sami and all of the villagers in their pursuit for peace, dignity, and a future for their children through peaceful means of education, art, entrepreneurial effort, and construction.

We are deeply grateful to Majdi Shella, our program coordinator. His knowledge, dedication, and social network made all these projects possible.

Top level: Pam, Ben, Dud, Majdi. Lower level: Rob & Ariel.

Top level: Pam, Ben, Dud, Majdi. Lower level: Rob & Ariel.

 

Lily and Ayat

Lily and Ayat

Moved by the resourcefulness and fortitude of Haj Sami, Rob Shetterly painted his portrait.

Moved by the resourcefulness and fortitude of Haj Sami,
Rob Shetterly painted his portrait.

Mayor Haj Sami with his community at the completion of the mural.

Mayor Haj Sami with his community at the completion of the mural.

What we have painted is an attempt to regain dignity and historical truth. What any oppressed people do. No one was injured in the painting of the mural, no homes destroyed, no olive trees bulldozed, no checkpoints erected, no settlements built, no water stolen, no separation wall built. 

 

The keffiyeh over the land is the rejection of apartheid. A statement of justice and defiance.

 

– Rob Shetterly

 


 

Learn more about Barefoot Artists’ projects in Al Aqaba, Palestine.

Barefoot Artists in Al Aqaba, Palestine, 2014 Barefoot Artists in Al Aqaba, Palestine, 2014

On April 30th 2014, the Barefoot Artists team visited Al Aqaba, a small West Bank village located in the Jordan Valley. The village is at a watershed moment.

Al Aqaba kindergarten class with Barefoot Artists volunteers.

Al Aqaba kindergarten class with Barefoot Artists volunteers.

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Barefoot Artists in Al Aqaba, Palestine, 2011 Barefoot Artists in Al Aqaba, Palestine, 2011

Visiting Palestine for the first time in 2011, I travelled to the West End to work at the Balata Refugee Camp. It was built adjacent to the city of Nablus, where the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) sponsors a school for 1,200 girls, from kindergarten to high school. There, I had the privilege to conduct workshops for some young teens.

I asked the students to draw what was on their minds. Repeatedly, the flag of Palestine, in green, white, red, and black, would appear along with the map of Palestine. Not the map of Palestine as it is currently defined, but as it was before the 1948 Palestinian exodus. The momentous event is termed Nakba, “catastrophy,” when over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes due to armed conflicts and the hostile takeover. The conflict between the occupying force and the resistance still continues today. It results in wanton destruction with numerous people dead or incarcerated.

palestine-map

During our residencies in the West Bank in 2014 and 2015, Barefoot Artists members participated in the celebration of Prisoners Day in Nablus. Thousands of children and families gathered in the big park in Nablus to show solidarity with their loved ones, including children who were locked away in Israeli prisons. We painted the hands and faces of hundreds of children. Although many asked for the images of flowers and hearts, almost every child wanted a flag and or a map.

Flags and maps are profound images to the Palestinian people who have lost their land, homes, communities, and economic means. When their history and very identity have been threatened under the oppressive occupation, they see these images as symbols for their survival. They were once free people, from a land of bounty. Although they have lost most of their land, they must not lose their memory, spirit, and hope.

 


 

Learn more about Barefoot Artists’ projects in Al Aqaba, Palestine.

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