Remembering the Martyrs of Qadura Refugee Camp
Ramallah, Occupied West Bank, 15 x 15 feet
Painted by Eric Drooker and Susan Greene, with community of Qadura refugee camp.
The K. family in Qadura refugee camp, where BTS first stayed in 1989, asked if we would paint a mural that would commemorate the people from thecamp who had been killed in the first and second Intifadas or uprisings. (Intifada is an Arabic word meaning to ‘shake off’)
The word “martyr” is defined by anyone who is killed due to the occupation. Therefore, for example, a woman who dies in childbirth because the Israeli army will not allow her to pass to the hospital is considered martyr, as would someone killed by a stray bullet, etc. In this case all of the martyrs of the camp were unarmed when they were killed in situations including: demonstrations, detention, and an ‘accident’ where one youngster slipped off a building being chased by Israeli soldiers.
The K. family wanted the mural to convey a feeling of hope and so we decided to use the sun to represent the power and significance of memory and history. The portraits were painted in the body of the sun using the same colors so the faces look as though they are emerging from the sun itself.
Most importantly, the mural included a portrait of the Italian journalist, Raffaele Ciriello who was killed in across the street from the K family home while taking photographs at the start of the second Intifada. The town was being invaded by tanks and was under curfew. A member of the K. family, N., witnessed his violent death when she snuck outside, risking her life to find some bread. The site for this mural was right above the corner where Ciriello was killed by Israeli tank fire.
The K. family collected photographs from the camp’s families and instead of the expected 6 people it turned out that there were 12 martyrs from this small refugee camp. As we painted, relatives and friends of the people we were painting stopped by and commented on the portraits, giving us pointers and corrections. They thanked us profusely for doing the mural. There was something unnerving about painting lively looking portraits of people who had died, most of them young and all violently. We had been invited into a most intimate part of the community.
The opening dedication for the mural was attended by the mothers and immediate relatives of the martyrs. Several of the mothers said that they felt very ambivalent about the mural. They liked that the community was remembering their children but it was painful to see their lifelike portraits on a public wall. They said it felt like a wound was being reopened. However, in spite of the pain, they all said that they were pleased with the project and that it was worth it. Many expressed their desire to have more murals such as this one in the city.