Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darweesh is known worldwide for his commitment to peace and role as an advocate and voice for the Palestinian people. Until his death in August 2008 Darweesh sought dialogue through his poetry as a means to achieve peace and was considered a “universal human being” for his efforts.
His poem, “Ahmad al Za’tar,” was published in the 1960s and represented Palestinians through the character of “Ahmad” – their longing for a homeland, their lives as far-flung refugees splintered from their families, their plight in Palestine as they lived under occupation. When Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife put the poem’s words to music in 1983, “Ahmad al Za’tar” was quickly embraced as an anthem for Palestinians across the globe, and Darweesh was catapulted to international acclaim.
Kanaan Kanaan is an award-winning Palestinian artist who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Amman, Jordan. Now living in Portland, Kanaan garners inspiration for his work from his culture’s rich history. “Ahmad al Za’tar” struck a chord in him when he visited Lebanon in 1993, still reeling after the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the massacres at Sabrah and Shatelah.
“Dialogue” pays homage to Darweesh and his use of poetry to promote messages of universality and social justice. Poetry is an integral part of Arab culture, in both language and art. In “Dialogue,” Kanaan weaves Darweesh’s poetry into paintings of landscapes representing Kanaan’s memories – of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – as a child and young adult. “As painful as it is, the words of Darweesh have offered Palestinians strength and courage,” says Kanaan. “They have kept our souls alive.
This artwork honors humanity, Darweesh and the continued need for dialogue to better understand one another, to reach out using peaceful means. This is what I want to share.