Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Getting to know Abdelhadi Yaish, Ramallah‘s local artist

By Henrique Dores - April 12, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Culture] [Interviews]
Tags: [culture] [Ramallah] [artist]

Photo by Henrique Dores.

Standing in the corner of the main Rukab Street with Al-Anbeya Street, the familiar site of Abdelhadi Yaish and his portraits adorned the wall and pavement. He leaned towards his drawing tripod while holding a cigarette in one hand and a pencil in the other, and asked, “Where are you from?” 

After a few moments of introductory conversation, five different people had already stopped Abdelhadi. From requests for pictures, to information about his work or simply a friendly greeting, everything seemed like an excuse to engage in a conversation with this charismatic artist. 

“I am here every afternoon, from 3 pm to 7 pm, so everyone knows me around here,” he explains.

A professor of arts in the Evangelical School of Ramallah, and a husband and father of four, Abdelhadi still keeps that peculiar spark in his eyes, typical of a rebel, of someone that wants to eat the world. 

“I still have time to draw at least four portraits per day, each one taking me around one hour to get it ready, and to carry out my duties as a father and husband,” he tells the Palestine Monitor, who managed to interview him about his work, visions and opinions on the current state of affairs.

Palestine Monitor: How did you start drawing?

Abdelhadi Yaish: Well, I started drawing very young. When I was 9, I had a Karate accident. I broke my leg and I had to spend three month in the hospital, so when my uncle came to visit he taught me simple, basic drawing. And because I had time, I practiced a lot and eventually I fell in love with it. After that, I got some proper training in the Institute of Fine Arts in Jordan, and throughout the years I did some complementary courses in Italy and United States. But I always try to improve by my own.

PM: How would you describe yourself as an artist?

AY: That’s a hard question… Well, I suppose I would describe myself as a painter, a drawer. However, helping people that do not have the possibility to get in touch with arts to have that first contact, and teach youngsters how to paint or draw, has become one of my passions. As learning is an important part of teaching, I am constantly building up myself as an artist, so it is only fair to include it in my self-description as an artist.

PM: What are the main difficulties that an artist in Palestine faces?

AY: There are many difficulties for an artist in Palestine. The lack of direct support to the artist from the responsible authorities or the practically nonexistence of centers that promote artists and art in Palestine are two of the main problems. Obviously, this is also due to the Israeli illegal occupation, which also makes almost impossible access and communication with other technical areas of art. Moreover, it makes the access to materials scarce and very expensive.

PM: Is your creative process connected with the social-political context that surrounds you? How does it work?

AY: Yes, it is definitively connected to the social and political context that surrounds me. What I do is mainly is an observation of reality. Therefore, my art is derived from the daily suffering caused by the illegal Israeli occupation. It expresses the depth of the tragedy where Palestinians are immersed in. My paintings of the leaders of the Palestinian people, for instance, intend to make a reflection about the long years of struggle for freedom and independence.

PM: What do you think of the recent visit of Barack Obama to Israel and Palestine?

AY: In my opinion, the visit of Barack Obama to Palestine achieved very little, to say the least. I wish that his historic visit had made progresses in the peace process between Israel and Palestine, but it was not the case.

PM: What are your expectations for the near future of Palestine?

AY: Palestine is in a very difficult situation. Nevertheless, the development of vital sectors like health or education is an obtainable goal for the immediate future. Also, support [given] to youth and the development of the energy sector should and could be reinforced.

PM: In your opinion, what could be a significant improvement of the current situation? What is the solution that you envisage for Palestine?

AY: Firstly, we need to achieve peace and national reconciliation in order to establish a fully functioning independent Palestinian state and institutions, so that we can overcome the current financial crisis. My solution would definitively have to include achieving Palestinian sovereignty in the illegally occupied territories in 67, the halt to the Israeli settlements and the removal of all checkpoints, the release of all prisoners of war and the right to return to all refugees.

PM: And what about a third intifada? Is it coming? Would it be a definitive step towards Palestinian independence and the end of Israeli occupation?

AY: I don’t know whether a third intifada is coming or not, but I don’t wish it to happen. A third Intifada would cause damage to both peoples and its outbreak would mean a regression of several years, delaying the peace process and postponing the actual establishment of a Palestinian state. We have to focus on the reconciliation of the Palestinian people, so that we can confront the occupation and make real progresses in the peace process.

PM: And finally, what are your projects for the near future?

AY: Right now I am trying, together with other Palestinian artists, to launch a gig to promote Palestinian art and artists around the world. We are planning to show our art in around 22 exhibitions in the United States and Europe. But this is a new project, so it is a bit early to tell if it happens or not. Let’s hope it does…

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