Edward Said Mural (Final)

Translation / Interpretation / Caption Text

Curator' note: This version of the Edward Said Mural does not have the image of "Handala", Naji Al Ali's cartoon character, the key or the pen which were considered inflammatory by SFSU President Robert Corrigan.

The original version of the mural with the Handala character may be viewed here

Dedicated on November 2, 2007, the Palestinian Cultural Mural honors Dr. Edward Said.

1. Professor Edward Said (1935 - 2003)

Edward Said was a Palestinian Arab-American educator, writer, philosopher, and civil and human rights activist. His activism for human rights, justice, and a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict inspired millions of people around the world. His writing has also been an inspiration for Arab-Americans and others. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest Arab-American thinkers and scholars of the 20th century primarily for his work dissecting the stereotypes of "Orientals," which have been perpetuated in Western society for hundreds of years. In the mural, Said wears a Palestinian headdress or scarf (Kuffiyya or Hatta), which is a cultural garment that has come to symbolize the struggle to maintain and preserve Palestinian identity.

2. The City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the birthplace of Said, and its representation in the mural (through its landscape and monuments) complements the poem in items 5 and 6 ("I am from there…"). Jerusalem represents the genesis of Said's thought. Since Said was born and lived in Jerusalem, his earliest experiences (and hence his thought process) were influenced by Jerusalem.

3. Palestinian Folkloric Dance

Debka is a traditional, folkloric Arab dance. Palestinian Debka is a non-violent form of resistance and preservation of Palestinian culture and heritage. It is presented on the mural to bring attention to the rich culture of the Palestinian people, and performed by students at San Francisco State in the Malcolm X Plaza (item 14) wearing traditional Palestinian clothing. One of the women dancers is holding a Palestinian flag. The presence of Palestinian women pays homage to the matriarch responsible for maintaining and preserving Palestinian life and culture. Palestinian women play an integral part in Palestinian life, society, resistance to occupation, and in the struggle for human rights through mobilization and education.

4. Said's Books

Said's scholarly work and his contributions to academia are imperative to, and have influenced, such fields as literary studies, comparative literature, area studies (specifically the Middle East and the Arab/Islamic world), anthropology, political science, comparative religion, and music. Books represented include: The Question of Palestine, Orientalism, and Covering Islam.

5. Mahmoud Darwish Poem (in traditional Arabic Calligraphy)

Mahmoud Darwish is a well-known Palestinian poet who was a personal friend of Said. He wrote a farewell poem in Arabic dedicated to Said in 2003. For the mural, a verse of the poem that reads: "ana min hunaak, ana min huna," ("I am from there, I am from here") was selected. The selection of a verse from this poem serves several purposes: it recognizes Said's identity as an Arab-American and reflects the identities of others in the diaspora. Arabic calligraphy, with many styles, is an art that has been used to decorate architectural monuments, manuscripts, and objects of daily life for over 1,400 years. The Arabic poem noted above is rendered in an artistic form to enhance the Arab and Eastern influence of the mural.

6. English Translation of Darwish Poem

The same verse noted above (in item 5) is rendered in English on the Wall of Jerusalem.

7. Cacti

Cacti (Sabr in Arabic) are a resilient plant and a part of the landscape of Palestine. They represent Palestinian people's desire for peace and their patience waiting for it.

8. Dove

The dove is the universal symbol of peace and represents the Palestinian desire for peace for all people. Two doves are rendered in Arabic calligraphy using the word "Salam" which means "Peace" in Arabic.

9. Olive Tree

Olive trees are indigenous to Palestine. Palestinians have a deep cultural connection to the olive tree because it represents their subsistence, their deep history and their profound connection to the land that gives them life. Furthermore, the olive branch is a universal symbol for peace.

10. Children Reading

Children are the bearers of the future who will carry on the cultural traditions of the Palestinians. Their presence on the mural represents the recognition of Palestinians children's right to freedom, life, and education. The children reading a book complements the mural's overall theme and its dedication to a great writer.

11. Postage Stamp

The postage stamp represents the hope that one day Said will be recognized on a U.S. postage stamp as one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century. The postage stamp includes Said's name in both Arabic and English.

12. New York City Landscape

The landscape of New York (where Said spent most of his life in exile) is represented by a Colombia University building where he taught and by well-known New York City monuments like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.

13. The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge (in conjunction with images of the New York City landscape) illustrates the vast geographical scope and reach of the Palestinian diaspora in the United States.

14. Malcolm X Plaza

The Cesar Chavez Student Center's Malcolm X Plaza is included in recognition of student activism at San Francisco State, as well as to pay homage to the connection between the Palestinian-American and other civil and human rights struggles in the United States.

15. Piano Keys

The piano keys honor Said's artistic talent. They also make reference to his efforts to use music to bridge the Palestinian-Israeli divide. Together with conductor Daniel Barenboim, Said created the East-West Diwan Orchestra in 1999, featuring young Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

16. Edward Said Quote

The following quotation by Edward Said is taken from his most influential book, Orientalism: "Humanism is the only, and I would go so far as saying the final, resistance we have against inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history."

17. Traditional Arabic Calligraphy

Each quotation in the mural is translated into Arabic and rendered in a traditional Arabic calligraphy style, recognizing the Arabness of Palestinian culture and demonstrating the importance of art, language, and culture to all Arabs.