Why I’m thankful Banksy got into Gaza
I am thankful that Banksy managed to showcase a message that mainstream media struggled with
Banksy, a popular street artist who started out in the streets of Bristol has made it into Gaza. In a series of graffiti “wall”-art (more like walls from remains of buildings), Banksy used his recurring message of anti-establishment to create a spoof video promoting tourism in the Gaza Strip.
I’m thankful that Banksy managed to make it to the Gaza strip for many reasons. Firstly, that he had the courage to defy convention and attempt to break into the world’s largest open-air prison. I’m thankful that he had the courage to sneak in through the tunnels, and I’m thankful that he had the belief and conviction that shedding light on the situation in Gaza took was a high priority.
I’m thankful for the courage Banksy showed in his latest piece of art. Ultimately, courage is exactly what the region is lacking; someone to stand up to the status quo and challenge it in the most basic of ways, by using stencils. But at the same time I am thankful that there are artists with such courage.
I am thankful that Banksy managed to showcase a message that mainstream media struggled with. In the wake of the war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, it was difficult to know what to write about – the kids dying, the mothers ailing, the fathers targeted, or the future of those who are ‘lucky’ enough to stay behind. Banksy managed to capture it all in images and film.
Reviving the message
It’s easy to block out sad memories, but in the case of Gaza, it’s absolutely vital that they stay alive. The struggle in Gaza isn’t exclusive to when the city is being bombed, it is a year-round, decades-long struggle that makes the headlines only during war. The struggles of the people will continue until the siege on Gaza is lifted, and a flow of goods and commodities to light the dying flame, the economy, is permitted.
I am thankful that Banksy managed to showcase a message that mainstream media struggled withYara al-Wazir
This is why the timing of Banksy’s piece was crucial and meaningful.
There is no international day for the case of the citizens of Gaza - that would be too controversial. Internationally recognized days tend be a celebration, but there is no reason for celebrations in Gaza. Or at least there wasn’t, but this week, as a human being with emotional and blood ties to Gaza, I celebrate Banksy’s art.
Let’s not forget Banksy (and Gaza), aren’t alone
It’s important to remember that Banksy is not the only artist shedding light to the situation in Gaza, but despite his status as a controversial artist, he is one of the few who are able to shine a light on the situation in lesser controversial ways. DAM, a three-piece rap band from the city of Lod in the Occupied Territories has been vocal about the impact of the occupation for years. Earlier in February, the band also used the art of selfies to bring to light the perils of dealing with the Israeli Forces. A staged selfie of one of the band members being chased by the other two members, dressed in costumes of the Israeli Forces, went viral on Twitter. Although it was staged, it still rings true to a daily battle.
Perhaps the actions of Banksy, and those artists around him, can be summed up with one of his own statements, which appeared at the end of his min film on Gaza: "If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral."
Going forward, we need to wash our hands less – recognize the balance of power, and do what we can to actually balance it out. It’s the least we can do.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir