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.
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