Israeli-built wall is Palestinian artist’s canvas to denounce injustice

Taqi Spateen says visually relating Palestinian life under Israeli occupation is an important tool to keep alive global awareness of the decades-old conflict.
Friday 02/07/2021
Palestinian men look at Taqi Spateen’s mural of Iyad Hallak, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli police, on a section of Israel’s separation barrier in the city of Bethlehem. (AFP)
Palestinian men look at Taqi Spateen’s mural of Iyad Hallak, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli police, on a section of Israel’s separation barrier in the city of Bethlehem. (AFP)

BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories - For Palestinian artist Taqi Spateen, a stroll along the Israeli-built barrier that runs through parts of Bethlehem amounts to an open-air exhibition of his murals denouncing Israel’s occupation.

Spateen’s work fills much of the concrete outside secretive artist Banksy’s Walled-Off Hotel, a now iconic section of the barrier which Israel constructed to cut off the West Bank from the Jewish state.

His murals include an enormous portrait of George Floyd, the African American killed by former US policeman Derek Chauvin.

“I feel like he’s a Palestinian man. He has the same issues we have,” Spateen told AFP, after completing his latest work showing a sniper rifle underneath east Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock mosque compound.

Spateen said visually relating Palestinian life under Israeli occupation was an important tool to keep alive global awareness of the decades-old conflict.

The murals “convey the image of Palestine to the world”, Spateen said, after spending four hours to complete his latest work under a blazing sun, at the base of a watch tower.

Israel says the barrier, built mostly inside the West Bank, is necessary to prevent attacks, but Palestinians label it an apartheid wall, separating them from Jerusalem.

Palestinian artist Taqi Spateen poses before a previous mural of his creation depicting George Floyd. (AFP)
Palestinian artist Taqi Spateen poses before a previous mural of his creation depicting George Floyd. (AFP)

Spateen has also portrayed football star Lionel Messi kicking a ball through chains, an image inspired by Argentina’s 2018 decision to call off a friendly with Israel, citing the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians.

Spateen is about to begin a residency in France, where he has plans for a project on “the fogginess” of Palestinian society.

He said the project was inspired in part by images of tear gas fired by Israeli forces to suppress Palestinian protests and unrest as well as dust-filled photos from Gaza following Israeli air strikes.

Israel levelled several multi-story buildings in the Palestinian enclave during an 11-day May conflict, during which Gazan militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel territory.

Spateen stressed the importance of continuing his work on the concrete barrier, despite the “ugliness” of the structure.

“Graffiti is a means of resistance in Palestine,” he said.