Designers respond to the latest Israel-Palestine crisis

As protests against the events in Gaza and Israel mount around the world, designers have shared artworks across social media calling for change. Here, Sana Iqbal speaks to some about the works they posted and their feelings on the conflict

#SaveSheikhJarrah has been trending across social media platforms in an attempt to raise awareness of the forced evictions of Palestinians and the storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli forces.

As we saw with the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, designers have created work to express solidarity with Palestinians and to help aid understanding of the events taking place. Voices across the religious and political spectrum, from A-list celebrities, footballers to art galleries, have come out in support of Palestinian freedom and an end to the conflict, which has claimed the lives of a reported 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis.

As a ceasefire is announced, we talk to a handful of designers who shared their responses on Instagram. Here, they explain why they chose to speak out and how design can help in communicating about controversial issues.

BAYAN DAHDAH

Bayan Dahdah is a designer based in Dubai who uses graphic design, illustration, and animation to portray historical and contemporary narratives.

“The videos that first emerged on social media of families being forced out of their homes struck a chord,” says Dahdah. “It served as a visual reminder of what happened to my grandparents over 70 years ago. My grandparents fled during the Nakba in 1948, and walked to Jordan where they began their new lives. The generational trauma, the feeling of displacement, the instability still exists within me today, despite my highly privileged life.”

Dahdah collaborated with motion graphics designer Amer Jamhour, whose roots are also in Palestine, to create a short animation on the first mass exodus of Palestinians from their homes in 1948, which she shared on Instagram. “All I can do is tell my personal story as objectively as possible, which is in and of itself inherently political. But it’s my truth, and one can’t argue or deny my story. The facts speak for themselves.”

Dahdah’s work typically only reaches her Arab audience but with this animation people from the UK and Europe engaged with it. “This was a big change … a necessary change. For the first time ever, I feel our collective voices being heard,” she says.

ANTHONY BURRILL

Anthony Burrill is a UK-based graphic artist well known for his typography and use of language to communicate clear and powerful messages.

“I felt I had a moral obligation to use my platform to speak about the current situation. My thoughts have been with the civilians caught up in the conflict in Gaza. ‘Peace Now!’ is for everyone. It’s a human response to the devastating scenes I’ve seen on TV and social media over the past two weeks,” says Burrill.

“Creatives shouldn’t be afraid of tackling difficult issues. We should support people who are speaking out and encourage everyone to engage with the wider world through their work.”

Burrill’s screenprint and T-shirt designs are being sold to raise funds for Oxfam’s Gaza Crisis Appeal. “I know printing a T-shirt isn’t going to change the world, but I wanted to do something that showed solidarity with the people suffering and that could offer some practical help.” Burrill hopes the T-shirts will help take the ‘Peace Now!’ message out into the world.

KULSUM KAROLIA

Kulsum Karolia is a graphic designer who combines analogue processes and digital design in her work and recently finished studying at the Manchester School of Art.

“What’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah isn’t new. Palestinians have been under occupation for decades … the media isn’t giving Palestinians a voice so it’s our responsibility to be their voice and that’s the least we can do,” says Karolia.

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Karolia was mindful that she’s just started her career, but wasn’t worried about the potential backlash speaking out could have. “Talking about Palestine makes people feel uncomfortable and this needs to change…. I got called brave for speaking up, but it’s not about standing up and being brave, it’s about standing up for what is right. People avoid calling what is happening ethnic cleansing, genocide, settler colonialism and apartheid (just to name a few), but this is happening right before our eyes.”

Her illustration depicts the moment the Al Jalaa tower in Gaza, which housed international media offices, was destroyed by Israeli air strikes. “The simplicity of the illustration reflects the situation, which is too often described as being too overly complicated to understand, when in actual fact this isn’t the case,” she says. Karolia hopes the educational resources being shared online will address the issue felt by some that Palestine is too difficult to understand or speak out on. “I hope people start to understand the true side of the story and for Palestinians to be given the rights they so desperately deserve.”

PROTEST STENCIL

Ben is a member of Protest Stencil, a collaborative political art project that subverts corporate advertising with messages to support grassroots anti-racist groups.

“I met Mohammed El-Kurd at his family’s home in Sheikh Jarrah in 2013, and have kept in touch with the situation faced by his family and others since then,” says Ben (who beyond his first name would prefer to remain anonymous). “I wanted to do what I could to show solidarity, so created these posters in response to the calls from Mohammed and other Palestinians for worldwide solidarity to highlight what is happening there and bring pressure on Israel to stop its ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.”

The posters were placed in prominent positions around London, including across the river from parliament. “Like with apartheid South Africa, history will not look kindly on those who had power, yet chose to do nothing to add their voice to calls for freedom, justice and equality, which is all the Palestinian BDS campaign is calling for.

“It’s been really clear that Palestinians feel the solidarity of artists, sportspeople, musicians … everyone showing them support. Through social media, it’s very easy for Palestinians to see all the protests and messages of support from people around the world. Just check out Mohammed El-Kurd’s social media to see what it means to him and his family, and to the other families in Sheikh Jarrah, to have so much international support.”

SARAH BORIS

Sarah Boris is an artist, graphic designer and creative director, whose practise splits between commissions, artworks and self-publishing.

“I have many friends and peers who have been sharing really important information in the last weeks on what is happening” says the artist. “I made the flag as I felt compelled to do something. I wanted to create a graphic art piece with no words but that would communicate love and solidarity.”

“I felt that I could not stay silent,” she continues. “So far, after posting the flag artwork the reaction has been very positive. I have received messages from people around the world thanking me for the support. I’ve also connected and talked with more people in communities worldwide and it’s been really special, beautiful and emotional.”

Sarah Boris has decided to release the Love artwork in collaboration with Harvey Lloyd Screens as a print with proceeds being donated to Medical Aid for Palestine.

Sana Iqbal is a freelance strategic graphic designer and board member of writing organisation 26; @sanaiqbaldesign

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes