DETROIT — A Palestinian art show organized by the Handala Coalition took place in the Swords Into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery in Detroit from May 26 to June 17.
This show, which was open for public viewing, honored the lives of Palestinians through art work submitted by the Dearborn and Metro Detroit community.
The Handala Coalition is a coalition of local Palestinian and Palestinian ally organizations in Michigan. Founded by Jenin Yaseen in 2019, the mission in its inception was to create an entity that made Palestinian organization “more sustainable and powerful in Michigan.”
Yaseen told The Arab American News she and her colleagues united to create this art show to commemorate the struggle and resilience of the Palestinian people and further the Handala Coalition’s mission.
“Nakba is the Arabic word for catastrophe and refers to the violent expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land on May 15, 1948,” Yaseen said. “We wanted to honor that the Nakba is ongoing. To this day, Palestinians are still being violently expelled from their homes and displaced to make room for Zionist-only settlements, but Palestinians will never be erased.”
Yaseen also shared that she strived to make the art show as interactive as possible for the viewers. They had several interactive art pieces and a chalkboard with “What will you do when Palestine free” written in large letters across it, allowing attendees to write their thoughts on the board.
Different pieces of art from the art show pictured above. Photos Courtesy of Jenin Yaseen
Several events were also held to further honor their purpose, including Open Mic for Palestine and a Palestine 101 workshop hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine Wayne State.
Their most powerful event, according to Yaseen, was the “Defend Masafar Yatta” event held on May 26, honoring Palestinians from the villages Masafar Yatta encompasses.
“Masafer Yatta is a collection of Palestinian villages in Hebron that is currently being ethnically cleansed by Zionist colonizers,” she said.
This event, attended by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), gave Palestinians from those villages an opportunity to use their voices and express their personal stories of injustice.
Two sisters — Lina and Jenna Mahmoud — from Masafar Yatta shared how their family has been directly affected living in that region.
Lina spoke of her firsthand experience she encountered when visiting her family as a child. She said her family was heading out on a picnic in Masafar Yatta, and where they had gone, bullets surrounded them upon arrival.
“The second I stepped down from the car, there were bullets all around me,” she said. “We sat amongst the bullets, enjoying our tea and the comfort that comes from the homeland, despite bullets surrounding us.”
“We became numb to these sightings,” she added.
She also recalled a time she was going on a walk and her cousin accompanied her to protect her from the potential of stepping on an explosive, typically disguised in a sock.
“Through the opportunity to share about my motherland to an audience from my American hometown was heartfelt as I can truly express what happens in my motherland to my current home,” she said. “In order to connect with the audience, we had a zoom conversation with my cousins who live directly in Masafer Yatta and allowed them to speak on their experiences as a journalist and an electrician, two different careers that combat the same struggles enforced by Zionist entities.”
Expressing these struggles, she said, left her feeling emotional, but she said she felt comfort in knowing she was sharing her story and taking action.
“This event is not only a beautiful showcase of art, but a symbol of the resilience of Palestinians worldwide,” Yaseen said. “Throughout all hardship and pain, Palestinians are able to find ways to thrive and share their beautiful culture everywhere around the world.”