“Gaza is often described as the world’s largest open air prison because no one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons – they don’t have their electricity and water cut off randomly almost every day.” Banksy.
When his art isn’t busy raising in value, his images continue to press all the right social chords in the public spaces they occupy. He is the artist known as Banksy, and his latest work centres on an undercover project in Gaza to paint his iconic stencil-art in a ruined landscape and raise social and political awareness on some of the harsher realities of life for the residents.
The short mini-documentary of his time in Gaza is available online and quickly immerses viewers into a world of a people whose plight is lost in the noise of other conflicts and whose pleas are ignored by political alliances that sanction the imprisonment of Gazans.
Interestingly, a quick response to Banksy’s ‘Make this the Year YOU Discover a New Destination, Gaza tourist video’ has appeared – posted by the territory’s unofficial parkour team who somersault and leap their way round the ruined city accompanied by the sounds of Palestine’s biggest female hip-hop artist, Shadia Mansour.
In their own words, the video opens with Abdallah AlQassab explaining how the team has the time to act as tour guides of Gaza as they’re all unemployed; over 50% of Gazans have no work, or any means of gainful employment.
Ruined buildings and houses shelled by the Israelis in the 7-week bombardment of 2014 (rather euphemistically labelled by Israel as ‘Operation Protective Edge’) set the scene for parkour moves and commentary with no small dose of sarcasm backing the moving images. A scene of the border-barrier that was built by Israel to restrict any movements in or out of the territory comes with Abdallah noting that, “we have a lot of friends and neighbours around us and they keep their eyes on us…”
And it is the wall and the surveillance and the domination of one powerful nation on a much smaller and weakened territory that fuels purpose in Banksy’s mission, and prompted his statement to the New York Times on his Gaza project. “I don’t want to take sides. But when you see entire suburban neighbourhoods’ reduced to rubble with no hope of a future — what you’re really looking at is a vast outdoor recruitment centre for terrorists. And we should probably address this for all our sakes.”
But, putting the influence of Hamas on Gazan-youth to the side, Abdullah and his friends through their video message put hope back into Banksy’s theme:
“In spite of all of this happening in Gaza we are here and alive and our spirit is very strong. So come and discover us. Make Gaza your destination.”