The Story - Watercolor Painting - 9"x12"
As an artist, freedom of expression is the cornerstone of creativity. Stifling expression and speech curtails the fundamental right to communicate, to share ideas, to motivate and to inspire. Throughout history, it has generally been the effort of those who fear criticism and challenge to restrict the free exchange and expression of ideas.
In 1967, Israel banned the Palestinian flag. Any demonstration of the flag, from publications to advertisements and even photographs could result in imprisonment or worse. To subvert the ban on the national colors, it is said that Palestinians would carry sliced watermelons, naturally grown through the region, as a sign of protest.
In 1980, the Israeli government went further and banned the colors of the Palestinian flag -- forbidding artwork composed of its four colors and to display such artwork could results in arrest. This law not only limited artistic expression but also sought to suppress Palestinian identity and national pride. By prohibiting the display of these colors and any art of political significance, the legislation aimed to control the narrative and erase symbols.
Even a painting of a slice of watermelon could be confiscated and land the artist in trouble with the law. The law also targeted other forms of expression, as seen in the arrest of individuals who defied the ban, who planted and distributed seeds that grew into vegetables reflecting the colors of the flag.
The laws were eventually revoked in 1993 as part of the Oslo Accords, but, as recently as this year, Israel’s security minister ordered police to take down publicly displayed Palestinian flags. By May, there were 11 bills in Israel’s legislature that, if passed, would ban the Palestinian flag in various settings, including on university campuses.
Since then the watermelon has regained traction in social media in wake of the legislative crackdowns, and now represents solidarity with and the fortitude of the Palestinians living under occupation.
It is upon learning this, along with the history, struggle and conflict of the region that this painting emerged.
This art was painted on Nov 13, 2023. On this date, the Gaza Health Ministry estimates more than 11,000 Palestinians have died, of whom 4,500+ were said to be children and 3,000+ were women. About 2,700 others, including some 1,500 children, have been reported missing and may be trapped or dead under the rubble, awaiting rescue or recovery.
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