Palestinian artist booted from Banksy’s Dismaland for anti-Israel protest
An avant-guard Palestinian artist whose art was being displayed in pseudonymous British graffiti artist Banksy’s “Dismaland”, was told his art would be removed after he staged a protest against Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip.
Shadi Alzaqzouq was told his art would be removed at the satirical take on Disney's theme parks on Sunday, after he staged a protest because organisers had not informed him that Israeli artists were also taking part in the show curated by Banksy, known for his Palestine advocacy.
In August 2005, Banksy painted nine graffiti pieces on the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children, digging a hole through the wall.
|After Washing #3 [Shadi Alzaqzouq]
“I found out when arrived at the show that three Israeli artists were taking part, one of whom served in the IDF. I got upset that I hadn’t been informed and tried to complain to the organisers. I was told someone would meet with me but after over an hour of waiting no one came to meet with me,” Zaqzouq told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
“I decided I had to protest in some way so I went and got a bed sheet from my hotel room and wrote ‘R.I.P Gaza: Boycott Israel’ on it in coal and hung it over my artwork and laid down like a corpse in front of my two paintings on display,” the 34-year-old said.
After half an hour security guards approached Zaqzouq to inquire about what was going on, who then called Holly Cushing - believed to be Banksy’s manager.
After explaining to Cushing the reason for his protest, she told him it was too “ugly” for the dark show and that an American art collector was going to buy his art - and that America and Israel were one and the same, according to Zaqzouq.
Cushing then claimed that Banksy wanted the Palestinian artist's work to be taken down from display.
Zaqzouq said that two of the show’s organisers were polite and understanding.
“I didn’t pull out of the show. I just wanted to send the message that I was protesting - but they didn’t like it and said they would take it down,” the artist said.
“I respect all that Banksy did, especially in Gaza. He was my hero for a long time and gave some hope to us. I just tried to send him a message - in a very Banksy kind of way - that I objected, and then I was told it would be taken down. I am surprised,” he added.
Two of Zaqzouq’s works are on display in the “bemusement” park, After Washing #3 depicts a young woman wearing a bandana over her face holding up a pair of men’s underwear inscribed with the Arabic word “irhal” (leave) – a popular chant by street protesters during the Arab Spring, demanding the ousting of dictators.
The other piece, Rock Me All Night Long shows googly-eyed children throwing brightly coloured rocks and shoes with a stencil in the background of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, wearing the famous make-up of the fictional supervillain, the Joker.
Zaqzouq was born to Palestinian parents in the Libyan city of Benghazi. He lived in Libya, Gaza and Egypt before settling in France in 2007. It is clear from his art that that revolution and discontent are the primer for each of his canvases.
Last Friday, Banksy opened his large scale group show lampooning Disneyland in the southern UK seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare. Since Dismaland opened it has been plagued with reports of thousands of people struggling to buy tickets and long queues.
UPDATE: Al-Araby al-Jadeed has learnt that the organisers of Dismaland have not removed Shadi Alzaqzouq’s artwork as they said would happen and have instead kept his protest art up with a note saying, “The artist has decided to cover his work to protest being exhibited alongside artists from Israel. We are hoping to resolve the situation as soon as possible and apologise for any disappointment."