David and Goliath: Palestinian Artist Spreads Hope

By Ramzy Baroud

When one commits to the life of an active citizen, spending their hours days and years reading and writing about current events, it becomes a daily struggle to overcome the cynicism that chases after you with the despairing headlines marking each newspaper or magazine. Rare is it when someone or something comes along to revive the feelings of courage, tenacity and wilfulness of the young and hopeful activist.

In my office, hanging above the fireplace in conspicuous view from any part of the room is a large print of Rana Ghassan’s "David and Goliath". It has been placed in a strategic location, where beholding it daily is unavoidable. I am forced to study the foreboding danger portrayed as soldiers gather in the distant dust. I must consider that the young faceless boy in the work stands with no barricade to protect him, no riot gear, armoured vehicle, just a worn-out cotton t-shirt and a steadfastness that can move mountains.

With a hearty clutch on a handful of stones, his only weapon, the bulging veins and blanched knuckles convey an uncommon strength that so fluently and completely relays the history of the Palestinian struggle. It is not a message of victimization, weakness and pity. Yes, it does speak of adversity, injustice, but also of empowerment and the will to rise above wrong. If there is any notion that Palestinians would wish to relay, it is this; that their fight is not born of weakness and pity, but of brazen determination and guts. Ghassan is an ambassador in her own right, and has, in my opinion, conveyed this message impeccably. 

"David and Goliath" reflects a symphony of emotions. She masterfully brings together elements of accurate drawing, mood coloration, and phenomenal composition, capturing subtle emotions sometimes hidden within a live scene or photograph, and expresses the struggle of life under oppression in an inspiring light of courage and struggle.

One of her many strengths is that Ghassan focuses on the positive emotions of a negative scene. Some artists who choose to focus on Palestinian themes concentrate on the oppressors, which results in morbid, dark, and although very powerful and remarkable, nonetheless gloomy scenes. She believes that history has shown us that it is our darkest hours, which provide us with the contrasting background for the brightest light of hope and inspiration. Clearly, this idea is captured in her work.

Recent months have sadly also shown a less dignified side of the Palestinian cause. With infighting and internal politics so divisive that the real essence of struggle is eroded, Ghassan’s also provides a painful and abrupt reminder of the real heroes in this struggle. It is the poor, the disenfranchised and more, the youth of Palestine that keep the authentic and true struggle alive. I believe that Ghassan, through this intensely meaningful portrait, not only exposes the outside enemy, but the failure of the Palestinian leadership as well, for it is not politicians, ministers and the like that brave the occupying army, but a boy in the springtime of his youth who stands in his people’s defence.

I am so thankful for Rana Ghassan, for her genius, dedication and commitment to documenting this struggle in such a beautiful way. The pride and hope that screams from each canvas forces one to renew their commitment somehow, to reconsider their place in this unshakable struggle with each thoughtful gaze. I am certain that Ghassan will be honoured for generations as one of the most gifted Palestinian artists of our time.

-For more information visit http://www.cafepress.com/ranaghassan

-Ramzy Baroud is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). For more, visit his website: www.ramzybaroud.net

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