“Nakba” is the Arabic word for catastrophe. It refers to the violent expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land on May 15, 1948. From May 26 – June 17th this past summer, in order to commemorate al Nakba and celebrate Palestinian resistance, The Handala Coalition of Michigan held an art show at the Swords Into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery in Detroit. Palestinian and allied artists from around Michigan and Chicago displayed artwork around the theme of honoring and bringing awareness to the ongoing violence in Palestine.
To this day, Palestinians are being violently expelled from their homes and displaced to make room for Zionist-only settlements. But Palestinians will never be erased. And the peaceful and powerful gatherings hosted this summer which featured messages of hope, solidarity, and the right for all to dignity highlight the unity that can be created when we recognize one another’s humanity.
The multi-modal show featured workshops, and gatherings, and included many interactive installations. One of them, for example, was a huge chalkboard that asked folks to add their thoughts and feelings to the question “What will you do when Palestine is Free?”
One of our most powerful events, “Defend Massafer Yatta” held at the end of May was co-hosted by Lina Mahmoud, President of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Jenna Mahmoud, the Vice President of Students for Justice in Palestine at Wayne State University. Both Lina and Jenna are from Masafer Yatta, a collection of villages in Hebron that is currently being violently ethnically cleansed by Zionist colonizers.
“Holding an event alongside my sister at the Swords into Plowshares gallery in Detroit that encapsulates the tragedy occurring in my hometown was an experience I am very grateful for and only possible because of the Handala Coalition. I am from Masafer Yatta. Masafer Yatta is a small village in Palestine located South of Hebron, Palestine, and is currently undergoing massive destruction, murder, and ethnic cleansing by zionist forces. The opportunity to share about my motherland with an audience from my American hometown was heartfelt as I can truly express what happens in my motherland to my current home.
In Masafer Yatta, my family cannot build a home, does not have much access to water and electricity, and are raided on a daily basis so if there were a means of survival it will be taken and they will be beaten for it. My personal experience in Masafer Yatta was going on a family picnic over the summer as a kid, this was back when people were allowed to visit without being murdered. The second I stepped down from the car, there were bullets all around me. We sat amongst the bullets enjoying our tea and the comfort that comes from the homeland despite bullets surrounding us. We have become numb to these sightings. I decided to go on a walk and my cousin had to join to protect us so we did not inevitably accidentally step on an explosive, usually disguised hidden in a sock. Telling personal stories and facts through our voices, zoom conversations, and videos provided the audience with evidence and assurance of the reality the effects of the occupation on Masafer Yatta even though it is not a “trending topic” for people to take action.
The show was powerful. It was supported by the presence of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. I felt all types of emotions expressing the cruelty of zionist soldiers and the occupation, yet I felt so much comfort knowing I was heard and action was being taken.” – Lina Mahmoud
Learn more by following the Handala Coalition on FB and IG @Handalacoalition