One particular dimension of the graffiti discussed in class, with specific regard to the separation barrier, that stood out to me was the inclusion of children. Whether it was the 12-year-old girl that spray-painted “Children Against the Wall” or Banksy’s frequent depiction of children in his infamous wall project, it makes you wonder, why children and why in this context?
As Prof. Bishara explores, for some, Palestinian children represent the threat of demographic shifts and political violence, as we saw with the boy who wore ‘Future Attack’ on his t-shirt. For others, with a visually represented sense of youthful harmlessness, these children symbolize a hopeful democratic future and a chance at stability. Whatever the reason, what better way is there for news agency photography or graffiti artists to appeal to international or universal sensibilities than through the romanticized notions of corrupted innocence or oppressed youth? That is, innocent youth without any blatant remnants of a particular religious or political affinity.
This is the case with both the 12-year-old girl and Banksy’s work. The final frame that captures the endearing smile of a harmless 12-year-old beside her politically-charged (yet seemingly innocent) slogan written in perfect English makes her an ideal subject choice for, as Prof. Bishara discusses, a liberal public sphere. Similarly, if Banksy’s international acclaim was not already enough to garner ample media attention, his repeated emphasis on children and their denied sense of freedom and poignant desire for escape is perfect in capturing the international conscience. This includes his images of children barred from reaching what appears to be paradise through the broken wall or the renowned image of the balloon girl floating over the wall, despite its possible Eurocentric iconography, representing a sense of escapism. Often, the intention of these artists or choice of subject by news agency photography is to accentuate the jerking contrast between the innocence of these children and the stifling oppressiveness of the wall.
With the construction of this separation wall during the second intifada, there is no denying that the emphasis has shifted onto international graffiti artists and international journalism intended for an international audience. While localized Palestinian graffiti and murals remain predominantly inside communities, graffiti on the separation wall has thus begun to addresses many more ‘global’ issues of concern that appeal to a ‘global’ conscience. Whether symbolizing freedom of speech, unjust confinement or the plight of future generations, the use of children as active contributors or prime subjects of the art is thus increasingly paramount.