Art, Culture & Peace
“Are you crazy, enrolling in an art college? Even we engineering graduates didn’t get any jobs.”Those words didn’t discourage Abdul Rahman al-Katanani, a third generation Palestinianrefugee in Lebanon to pursue his interest in art. He picked up paint and brush instead of gun and bullets to fight the rights of Palestinians.In conjunction with Youth and Terrorism Conference, an art exhibition entitled Peace – Expression of Hope was held on 25 to 28 February 2009. It involved 25 artists from 6countries and Abdul Rahman was invited to exhibit two of his work; Mother in the Campand Women in the Camp.His artwork brought parts from the refugee camps to the outside world. Clothes, pegs, zincsheets are embedded in his artwork. He also defies convention by eschewing square canvasand adopts for irregular, jagged backdrop.Abdul Rahman explained that the clothes represented the huge number of refugee that is packed in the 1 kilometer square area of Shatila Camp. Brimming with 12,000 people it ledto an outrageously dense population. Such density also meant that he can’t possibly bringhis massive artwork around the camp.Meanwhile, the zinc sheets represented the common building material in the camp. For oneof the artwork, he used the zinc sheet to symbolize his mother.When asked how he got the materials Abdul Rahman jokingly said he stole them. Later onhe revealed that the people in the camp are supportive of his work and he simply have torequest it from them.Although people around him are initially skeptical of his vocation as artist, they later recognized that he is the one that are able to bring out their voice. ‘The boss of feelings’ as put by Abdul Rahman. He also strongly believes that when you do something you like,doors of opportunity open. This is proven by the fact that he is able to travel around theworld despite his refugee status. National Artist, Dato’ Syed Ahmad Jamal praised his work, stating that is a powerfulartwork that manages to tell so much in one sweeping image. He also added that the aspectof beauty is there and it gives a strong impact on viewers. In the same time, it still conveysthe message of the plight of Palestinian refugees.Fighting through art might be deemed as low level but in reality it is as dangerous as armedresistance. As art have the power to change it mind, it will potentially erode the propagandathat give legitimacy of Israel’s ‘self-defense’.