“When political identity is under threat, culture becomes a resistance tool in the face of attempts to obliterate, annihilate and exclude. Resistance is a form of memory in exchange for forgetting. A stateless person would consider writing or art a home to dwell in.”
Thus says one of the most immortal quotes by the late Palestinian academic Edward Said.
Similarly, under the ongoing Israeli occupation since 1948, Palestinian creative people have sought to build a counter narrative to the Israeli one regarding the nature of the conflict, and this Palestinian creativity has turned into the most important embodiment of this alternative homeland.
Thus, the writings of Ghassan Kanafani, Mahmoud Darwish and Emile Habibi were a great portfolio of the Palestinian memory. Palestinian art also played a role in documenting the stages of the conflict and rooting the identity to face the arrogance of the occupier’s power.
Artists as Resistance Symbols
Ismail Shammout is one of the symbols of the Post-Nakba Palestinian art, who contributed to its development and moved it from realism to expressionism and from simplicity to complex compositions.
Art critics believe that Shammout’s works have become graphic epics that convey images from his people’s daily life and elevate them to depict the suffering of the experience of displacement and the dream of returning to the homeland.
Over more than half a century, Palestinian art has created distinctive color systems and moved from realism to abstract summarization, and from direct expression to symbolism until its symbols and elements became a sign of the Palestinian identity and struggle, both at present and in history.
In Shammout’s famous painting “Life Prevails,” he depicted three women in white scarves with three gestures, one of them carrying fiery red flowers dominating a crowd of people, among whom there are a bride and groom as a symbol of victory and return. The painting’s background is occupied by many architectural monuments of historic Jerusalem.