11 August 2006

The Art of Naji Al-Ali

Naji Al-Ali. Do you know him?
If you do not know him, he knows you.
He is the humble Palestinian cartoonist
who rose out of the despair of war,
beyond expulsion from Palestine,
and above the poverty and petty politics
of the refugee camps in Lebanon,

to become a mythical giant of a figure
who embodied the consciousness
of the struggles of poor and oppressed people everywhere,
and the Palestinian nation in particular.

He is from the "Village of the Tree قرية الشجرة " in Palestine,
which is named so because Jesus (may Peace be upon him)
rested under the shade of a tree that stood on its holy soil.

It is clear from our vantage point
how such roots can give rise to a human being like Naji Al-Ali.

Along with hundreds of villages,
his village was destroyed in 1948
and its inhabitants expelled.

Naji's family fled north and after having crossed over
into Lebanese territory, they were first welcomed in
and given food and shelter by the inhabitants
of Bint Jbeil and her surrounding
sister villages.
Naji rose from the worst conditions of poverty and deprivation
in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon,
to world prominence as an artist and human rights advocate.

His drawings appeared in many daily newspapers around the world
during his life and after his death.

These simple yet deeply breathtaking drawings
have become the voice of millions of Arabs
who live under fear and despotism,
especially Palestinians.

His drawings are blunt, honest, unequivocal works,
yet they are emotional beauties that divulge the word of truth
about oppression and the human spirit.

His most famous character is Handala,
a small refugee child who stands witness
in the foreground of his cartoons,
looking into the vignette of each drawing,
with his back to the viewer.

In 1979 Naji Al-Ali was elected
president of the Guild of Arab Cartoonists.
He published three collections of his cartoons during his lifetime,
and was set to publish a fourth when he was assassinated in 1987
on a London street, as he walked to a newspaper office.

After his death, in 1988,
Naji Al-Ali was described in Paris
by the International Union of Newspaper Publishers
as one of the greatest and influential cartoonist
of the past two hundred years.

He was posthumously awarded the
"Golden Pen of Freedom" in Italy,
having been the first Arab journalist to receive this award.

Naji Al-Ali is a martyr of the pen.
He is a martyr of the poor and dispossessed.

He is a martyr of truth and courage.
He is a martyr of all the stolen olive trees,
from whose soul he extrudes the ink of his pen.

Naji Al-Ali Website

1 comment:

FA said...

Thanks for this page. I have always been a fan of Naji Al-Ali's works.

What an inspiring figure. Although, he is gone, his ideas and thoughts are alive through his drawings and ideas.