Subversive Children’s Art

Original artwork from the MECA exhibit

By: Grainne Rhuad

Many of us feel the worst, awful, destructive minds and hands are in control of the Gaza strip.  Then, I realized as  I listened to a speaker, a Christian church speaker at that, explain to an audience; or I suppose it was actually a congregation the “real meaning of the word “Ghetto” and how the Jewish people had pulled themselves out of it learning lessons from their ghettoization. It seemed he thought the world had left the darkness of ghettoization behind.

His point I think, was to show how learned in things historic he was.  He explained that Ghetto came from the Venetian term for “smelting place”.  As the Jews in the city were rounded up and put in the most uninhabitable spot, an island that has been designated as a smeltery.

Now,, the whole time he was going on about the “Dark Ages” and the atrocities committed therein which we should all recognize were from the “darking place”,  I couldn’t help but think, for all the ghetto’s the Israelites had to endure, they learned their lesson well, as they are first rate employers of ghettos.  In fact they have one of the last state approved ghettos in the world…As of yet.

We should also remember that the sun shines still even in the ghetto.  It doesn’t go over a fence and disappear. In the ghettos of Venice and London and Germany and every other ghetto ever learning, music, love, families and art grew.  We have amazing books kept alive only because of the work done in the ghettos of London, wherein Jewish scholars taught the priests friars, clergy and lords how to read and converse in Hebrew.

Even so there have always been and remains, vestiges of hope and happiness and yearning in the ghetto which is Palestine.  An excellent example is a travelling art display called “A Child’s View From Gaza.” However, although those of Jewish heritage are no doubt proud of the light their ancestors kept in the darkness of their remembered ghettos, they apparently do not want the same for the children of Palestine.

It is an art show that is often blocked, here in the U.S. and in other areas where pro-Israeli backers have a say in such things. It is a show that the Israeli government doesn’t really want the world to think about because the show featured drawings by children about Israel’s infamous Operation Cast Lead, the military assault of December 2008-January 2009 that led to the deaths of some 1,400 Palestinians, over 300 of them children.

This  collection is particularly poignant just now after the decision by Israeli courts to deny there was any wrongdoing in the death of Rachel Corrie makes it seem that supporters of Israel’s regime aren’t willing to take any chances that they may be seen in a negative light.

MECA director, Barbara Lubin stated recently on the MECA Facebook page regarding the Corrie ruling: “We are saddened but not surprised by the Israeli Court’s ruling about the death of Rachel Corrie. Our hearts go out to her family and friends. Once again the State of Israel refuses to take responsibility for its murderous actions. The killing of a young, peace loving activist from Olympia Washington whose only desire was to stop the demolition of a home that belonged to a family in Gaza that she considered her extended family. Rachel Corrie was and continues to be a hero and an example for young and old people around the world.”

This important children’s art show was blocked last year from its planned showing in Oakland by pro-Israel museum backers.  The MCEA organizers at the time released a statement regarding the Oakland Children’s museum of Art’s decision:

“The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland (MOCHA) has decided to cancel an exhibit of art by Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which was partnering with MOCHA to present the exhibit, was informed of the decision by the Museum’s board president on Thursday, September 8, 2011. For several months, MECA and the museum had been working together on the exhibit, which is titled “A Child’s View From Gaza.”

MECA has learned that there was a concerted effort by pro-Israel organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to pressure the museum to reverse its decision to display Palestinian children’s art.

Barbara Lubin, the Executive Director of MECA, expressed her dismay that the museum decided to censor this exhibit in contradiction of its mission “to ensure that the arts are a fundamental part of the lives of all children.”

“We understand all too well the enormous pressure that the museum came under. But who wins? The museum doesn’t win. MECA doesn’t win. The people of the Bay Area don’t win. Our basic constitutional freedom of speech loses. The children in Gaza lose,” she said.

“The only winners here are those who spend millions of dollars censoring any criticism of Israel and silencing the voices of children who live every day under military siege and occupation.”

This exhibit was two weeks later opened in a larger gallery space a few blocks away thanks to the response of the community and the demonstration held at the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland.

The exhibit continues to be shown across the country in other venues and will be featured here in my hometown as a part of Chico’s Annual Artoberfest.  Big-Up to Chico’s art supporters and The Peace and Justice Center.

What is important about a show like this is, it is the essence of art.  It is a portrayal of individual’s experiences.  In this case it is children’s and the experiences aren’t nice.  However this doesn’t mean that we should look away.  We should be paying attention to the fact that people, real ones are for reasons beyond their understanding entrapped in a situation not of their making due to their ethnicity and religious beliefs.  This processing of emotion through art is actually quite healthy and helpful to bring to fore the very real issues facing children every day in Palestine.  And lest you think it’s all sadness, it’s not.  There’s an awful lot of hopefulness and strength in these pieces.  My hope is that we stand with young artists in helping them feel active in making a difference for their future.

Art is not hard, but apparently truth is.

To find out more about the show and how to bring it to your area contact the MECA via :https://www.facebook.com/MECAforPeace

http://www.childsviewfromgaza.org/

 

http://www.artoberfest.org/component/redevent/details/659-keeping-hope-alivelife-and-culture-in-occupied-palestine.html