News channels, newspapers, Twitter and other social media platforms have been busy. Nothing unusual. Media is always busy with the usual stuff – feeds of similar story lines and repetitive political gossip, or an overload of one specific story over another – depending on what draws the most human attention (or hopefully conscience) and ignites the curiosity of certain media-addicted sedentary masses. Some is undoubtedly interesting, some heartbreaking, and others sheer comedy. Most of it is (controversially-speaking) clever and entertaining, not necessarily worth following.
However, a particular media feed this week caught my attention. It is of great importance to me – firstly as a human being, and secondly as an Arab. As most of you are aware, this week – 2nd of November to be exact – marks 100 years since The Balfour Declaration in 1917. The Declaration that had impacted millions of Palestinian lives, determining the destiny of my father’s generation, my generation, and my nieces’ generation and probably the unborn generations yet to come.
A few years after The Balfour Declaration, my father was born. Not long after that, Palestinian families were forced to leave Palestine and live in exile (most left by force and others by choice – justified by fear, by desperation and in pursuit of life preservation). They left not knowing it would be their last sacred glimpse of their holy land – the land which generously gave to their ancestors. Not knowing it would be their last traditional meal together around their generous Palestinian table in their Palestinian home, where their childhood spirit came into being, and (I guarantee) still lurks, undefeated. Not knowing their house key would never again find its keyhole. Not knowing they would be robbed of their lawful right ‘The Right of Return’. And somewhere in the midst of the ‘Not Knowing’, Palestinian homes were destroyed. Lives were stolen. Thousands became refugees, the thousands doubled and tripled until millions became displaced. All in a span of 100 years.
I painted this simple yet special painting eight years ago and gifted it to my father. It depicts the hardship of Palestinian life through the eyes of an old worn-out Palestinian man, broken by tragedies yet strong and living. His white and black كوفية (a traditional gender-neutral scarf pronounced Koofiyyeh) represents his Palestinian pride. The Palestinian flag colours in the background including the Koofiyyeh’s white (which also happen to be the UAE’s flag colours) represent his determination and hope. I hung the painting on my father’s office wall in his Dubai home (he had no choice in the matter!) and said to him, ‘I painted this for you baba so you will always remember Palestine, and me’. The look he returned with his eyes revealed all.