Children of the Intifada

Analysis / Interpretation / Press

The pen and ink drawings of Abdel Rahmen al Mozayen have become synonymous with Palestinian liberation struggles. Born in Kubyba in 1943, al Mozayen was a resistance fighter with the PLO and produced a number of political posters in the 1970s and 80s, iconic works that incorporate a unique combination of embroidery, ancient history, and stylized figures. Using the complex symbolism found in Palestinian embroidery to communicate steadfastness, his references to Canaanite heritage testify to the ancestral roots and longevity of Palestinian art, an element that is paramount to combating the co-option of local culture by Israelis and the near erasure of historical evidence by the occupation. Simultaneously, his employment of embroidery is significant -- with the forces of occupation often clamping down on the display of flags and other material associated with the resistance, the Palestinian art form evolved into an intricate coded language of signifiers used as an act of defiance. Al Mozayen's mother was an expert in the field. In Children of the Intifada (1988), the artist depicts two young children dressed in traditional Palestinian garb sitting atop a horse. The horse is adorned with an embroidered tapestry that reads "December" in Arabic and 1987 in English -- the month during which the first Intifada erupted. From the horse's bridle hangs a key, a familiar symbol for Palestinians: forced out by Israeli forces in 1948, many took the keys to their homes with them, expecting their expulsion to be temporary. The children have slingshots in their hands and a supply of stones nearby, a reference to the rock-throwing youth who were essential to the uprising. In mid-journey, the horse takes the children over a bed of rocks, perhaps suggesting the Jordan River as they cross it to liberate Palestine or a metaphorical road that is paved with the very means of their Maymanah Farhat