Resistance by poster: a history of Palestinian poster art

Resistance by poster: a history of Palestinian poster art
Exhibition: An international exhibition is displaying thousands of posters in support of the Palestinian cause dating back to 1917.
3 min read
08 April, 2015
Jamal al-Abtah 1988 [al-Araby]

To understand the power poster art has to whip up public emotion we need to remember the days before mass media. It was a time when the street was the most effective space for propaganda, and posters were used to shape opinion or encourage action.

Poster art has been used to promote revolutionary causes, including the Palestinian cause. This is embodied by an exhibition Palestine: 100 years, 100 posters organised by the Artists for Palestine organisationThe exhibition displays almost a century's worth of posters related to the Palestinian cause that date from the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

"The exhibition brings together 1000s of posters that trace the development of the Palestinian cause," Samir Abdullah, an Egyptian film director and organiser of the exhibition who lives in Paris, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Documenting a history of atrocities, the posters also show how Palestinians have defended themselves. Not only designed by Arab artists, poster designs come from a variety of countries and people with no geographical or linguistic affinity with the Palestinians, but who embody a sense of shared values.

     Documenting a history of atrocities, the posters also show how Palestinians have defended themselves.

The film director is also one of the founders of the Artists for Palestine organisation. This was launched on 1 August 2014 in reaction to Israel's military aggression in Gaza, and aims to unite artists of different nationalities and specialities who support Palestine. The other founders include: Raouf Karray, Nasser Soumi, Maria Amaral, Jean-Phillipe Elantkowski and Rashid Qureshi.

Abdullah explains that the organisation is important because it has created a space for artists committed to the Palestinian cause to work together. Many wear the movement's slogan, a map of Palestine resembling a blood stain on a black t-shirt, especially when they appear in public. "The movement is a spontaneous reation to attempts by the international artistic community to polish and enhance Israel's image," he argues. 

The exhibition Palestine: 100 years, 100 posters is being shown at different locations. The exhibition is a tribute to Izz al-Din Qalaq, the first person to collect posters by the Palestinian resistance. Qalaq owned 600 posters that make up the bulk of the project.

The exhibition's organisers have made contact with other organisations and individuals who collect posters, as the exhibition has moved location. This includes the website The Palestine Poster Project Archives.

Artists for Palestine has also coordinated a project to create the longest piece of artistic cloth ever made, covered in red handprints. The organisation takes a piece of cloth measuring ten metres by two metres to every country it visits. "We will attach these pieces together until the cloth is over 700 km long: the length of Israel's West Bank barrier," Abdullah explains.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.