As Gaza disengagement unfolded in August, a Bay Area team from the Break the Silence Mural Project joined the Rafah branch of the Association of Palestinian Artists in a collaborative effort to create a large mural at the Rachel Corrie Youth and Cultural Center in Rafah. The U.S. team consisted of Susan Greene, artist and psychologist, Sara Kershnar, organizer and activist, and John Halaka, Palestinian-American painter and professor. A team of Palestinian youth and adults who work at and use the facility were instrumental in creating the mural. The Center supports health and education for the community’s childrenWith disengagement approaching, there was considerable uncertainty about the U.S. contingent of the mural team making it into Gaza. They were able to do so, but the constraints of occupation factored into the effort.
On August 12th, Susan Greene reported to Cindy Corrie, “Yes, we are here– working like mad with the center and some local artists. We must finish by Saturday– in part due to the road situation that begins on Sunday– when only the hours of 10 pm and 3 am are open for travel…I planned to email you and others the design in progress– however due to the intermittent internet and a shorter time frame this was not feasible…Also, the ideas of people here played a most significant role. The mural frames the story of Rachel in her goals for being here and does not focus on her alone. We used Craig’s idea and included two salmon fish.”
As the project concluded, Palestinians Khaled Nasrallah and Anees Mansour sent photos to us in Olympia and wrote about the group gathered “to create the murals inside and outside” and about the celebration that followed: “some music and traditional dance (dabka) and some national songs from the children [were performed].”
Susan Greene has a long history producing large mural projects and has been part of public arts workshops in the West Bank and Gaza since 1989. In the U.S. she shares her mural creation experiences in Palestine with American audiences and readers.
The Foundation board is pleased to have had the opportunity to support this artistic collaboration. Rachel believed in the power of art created in community to build connections, awareness and change. We feel sure this project is one she would have loved.
Rachel’s words were incorporated into the mural in both Arabic and English: “I think it’s important that human rights and resistance to oppression be included in the way we define ourselves as a community.”