Today we have a guest post from William Parry about How&Nosm’s recent trip to Palestine to work with the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. Parry is the communications officer at Medical Aid for Palestinians and it’s certainly a bit atypical for a communications officer to write a guest post for Vandalog about a project they are in charge of, but Parry is also the author of Against the Wall: the art of resistance in Palestine (2010), which was reviewed on Vandalog a while back, so he’s also uniquely qualified to write about graffiti writers and street artists working with Palestinians and painting on or near the separation wall. I also had to privilege of seeing Parry speak at Haverford College last year, and it’s clear that improving the lives of Palestinians is his passion as well as his job. Also, if you want to read more about How&Nosm’s time in Palestine, Brooklyn Street Art also have a great post about the experience. – RJ
Sometimes you take a chance and it pays sweetly. Bringing How&Nosm to Palestine over the past two weeks was one of them, and I believe they feel the same, as they also didn’t know exactly what they were setting themselves up for.
Almost a year ago, I first met the Perré twins, Raoul and Davide, while doing an article about Prague’s ‘Stuck on the City’ street art exhibition. We got talking about politics and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and I eventually asked whether they would ever consider collaborating with the UK-based charity I had just begun working for, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), doing art workshops with MAP’s local partners in Palestine. “Sure,” they said. It would give them a chance to also do their own artwork on walls around Palestine.
A year on and countless emails later, I was anxiously waiting for them at the airport in Tel Aviv, wondering if the Immigration officials had caught wind of the project and would send them back to NYC. The heavily tattooed, stencil-and-cap-carrying twins said they were here for a 10-day organized tour. Nosm appeared after some time and said his brother had got stopped. “They didn’t believe we were here for the tour and asked us who else was on it,” he said. “How should I know, I told them, maybe just us for all I know! What could he do?” Another 10 minutes went by before How walked through the sliding doors, straight-faced, then he cracked a smile. “They went through my photos on my camera, asked why I was here of all places. I said: ‘I’ve been to 60 countries but not here yet. I want to tick Israel off the list.’”
Within minutes we were in the car for central Tel Aviv to get them a pre-order of cans in their signature colours. Three young guys running the shop were clearly honoured to have How&Nosm on their turf and volunteered to guide them to the best places to bomb. “What have you got planned?” one asked. “We’re here for some work,” said Nosm, keeping schtum. They clearly wanted to paint with them but Nosm took their numbers and said they’d be in touch. We filled the trunk with boxes of spray cans and headed for occupied Palestine.
Their natural environment is the street so I shouldn’t have been surprised that How&Nosm were keen to check into their East Jerusalem hotel, grab a quick shower and then head immediately to Bethlehem to sort out more paint, rollers, ladders and walls to paint – despite having travelled for about 20 hours by this time. We met a Palestinian street artist who goes by the name ‘Trash’ – he worked with Banksy to sort out his 2007 Santa’s Ghetto project in Bethlehem, and has also helped JR with several local projects. As dusk fell, Trash gave them a quick tour of ideal spots to do murals and arranged to meet the twins the following morning.
Over the next two days they produced three murals around Bethlehem – the largest ‘Lost Conversation’, as well as ‘In Mother’s Hands’ and ‘While Drinking Tea’ – and one in East Jerusalem, ‘Split Identities’. Locals would stop and talk to them, as usual, asking where they’re from, why they’re here, what the intricate images mean. But with four murals done, it was down to other serious business.
What How&Nosm witnessed for themselves as we drove through the occupied West Bank – scores of illegal Israeli outposts and settlements built on Palestinian land, the scandalous route of Israel’s illegal separation wall, seeing the freedoms that Israelis enjoy at the expense of Palestinians’ human rights, and hearing of Palestinian homes being demolished or taken over by Israeli settlers, shocked them deeply. They spent one day with a former Israeli military commander, Yehuda Shaul, who co-founded an Israeli human rights organization called ‘Breaking the Silence’. He drove them to the southern point of the West Bank and, throughout the journey, gave them a clear understanding of the layers of Israeli occupation and their intended impact on Palestinian communities – ethnic cleansing. I spent many days in the car with How&Nosm, talking about the situation among other things, and you could see their frustration and outrage growing with every mile covered as the occupation unfolded before their eyes.