‘Hair Like a Hedgehog’: Italian Artists Rise to Protect Iconic Palestinian Boy ‘Handala’

104 Italian artists paid tribute to Handala calling for a ceasefire. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Romana Rubeo  

Last November, Italian comic strip artist and illustrator Francesca Ghermandi, along with other artists launched what they described as “the first anti-war initiative in the history of comic strips in Italy.”

104 famous comic characters were depicted from the back and placed around Handala, as a tribute to the iconic character created by Palestinian artist Naji al-Ali.

In the poster, all characters seem to support and protect Handala.

Solidarity Comics 

“104 characters without flags and united for Handala to call for an immediate ceasefire!,” Ghermandi wrote on her Instagram profile on December 2.

This is not the first time an Italian comic artist has decided to step up in solidarity with Palestine. 

Last October, renowned cartoonist Zerocalcare decided to withdraw from Lucca Comics and Games over the Israeli embassy’s sponsorship. 

“Unfortunately, the patronage of the Israeli embassy on Lucca Comics for me represents a problem,”  Zerocalcare said.

“For me to come and celebrate there” while Palestinian civilians are dying “represents a short circuit (a moral failure – PC) that I cannot handle.”

Handala According to Naji 

“The child Handala is my signature,” Naji al-Ali wrote about his iconic cartoon character.

“His name is Handala and he has promised the people that he will remain true to himself,” al-Ali added.

“I drew him as a child who is not beautiful; his hair is like the hair of a hedgehog who uses his thorns as a weapon. (…) His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way.”

Throughout the years, Handala became a symbol of Palestinian refugees, and of the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and self-determination. 

Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali was shot in the neck and mortally wounded in July 1987 outside the London offices of Al-Qabas, a Kuwaiti newspaper for which he created political caricatures.

He died from his wounds one month later. 

Al-Ali was assassinated, but he continued to live on through Handala, making him the most popular Arab cartoonist in history. 

Ghermandi and her colleagues are also keen on keeping al-Ali’s memory alive, by protecting his most precious creations, the boy Handala. 

(The Palestine Chronicle) 

– Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appeared in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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