For former Palestinian detainee Abdelfattah Abu Jahil, prison art is a victory.
“At the beginning, it was really hard,” he said of painting, embroidery and sculpture during his first detention by Israeli forces in 1983. “It wasn’t allowed. We had to keep it hidden from the guards. And we had to smuggle the tools, like beads and threads, to make the art.”
That changed, he said, when a mass hunger strike forced the Israeli Prison Service to let Palestinian detainees keep and use art supplies.
“The greatest achievements of the prisoners’ movement were in 1985,” Abu Jahil said. “We went on hunger strike to force the Israelis to allow us to make art, among other things. I myself went on hunger strike for 79 days.”
Their success allowed art by detainees to flourish, he explained. “After the [Israeli Prison Service] allowed prisoners to make art, we were able to ask our families to send supplies, or buy them from the small shops in the prisons.”
Today, Abu Jahil, who was finally released from his fourth detention in 2002, continues to make art about detainees and the prisoners’ movement in Gaza. more