Who is Banksy
Banksy is an English street artist, political activist, and filmmaker, who hides his identity from the public. Most people use the term “anonymous” when referring to him. He takes satirical street art to make comments on the political atmosphere of the world. In a way, he is trying to take down the “big men in charge,” sort of like an artistic take on guerilla warfare. The phrase “Guerilla Graffiti” suits him quite well. He began his career as a freehand artist in 1990 and discovered stenciling in 2000, which is what he is mainly known for today. In those ten years his work started to have very similar undertones of anti-war and anti-capitalism which carried over to his future work.
His First Trip to Palestine
Banksy visited Palestine for the first time in 2005. On his trip, he created nine images we now know as signature artwork all over the West Bank and the Israeli West Bank Wall. A few good to note are:
“Rage, the Flower Thrower” - Probably the most popular piece Banksy has done in Palestine. The picture shows a man wearing traditional riot gear and making his face unrecognizable with a bandana and a cap. His hand is positioned in a way where he appears to be taking aim and getting ready to throw a weapon. But instead of a grenade, he holds a colorful bouquet of flowers meant to symbolize peace and unity.
“Flying Balloon Girl” - Another very popular image by Banksy that shows a little girl carried away by balloons. The girl’s posture seems to make a person assume she is floating away at her own will, floating to freedom and away from the destruction and fighting that has plagued the West Bank for over 7 decades.
His Future with Palestine
He revisited Betheleham in 2007 and created a few more pieces; most well known in this group is “Girl Frisking Soldier,” which was what started the conversation about Palestine again. In the piece, a little girl and a soldier are seen reversing roles and she is the one frisking him. Like in “Flying Balloon Girl,” he uses a little girl to symbolize the loss of innocence within the Palestinian Youth.
In November of 2018, he released a poster with the tagline, “Visit Historic Palestine: The Israeli government liked it so much they never left!”
Banksy received backlash from many Israelis and Israeli supporters for being anti-semitic. Batia Ofer, wife of British Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, publicly criticized the poster, though Banksy remained unbothered.
What is So Great About Banksy?
The general population does not know much about Palestine. The little information they do have is usually skewed one way and gives Palestine a bad name. Because of Banksy’s street art on the Israeli West Bank Wall, people started to visit Palestine for something other than to see the conflict. For about 12 years, his work had brought a steady amount of people, which made many Palestinians very happy. Though in 2017 Banksy took it up a notch and opened up “The Walled Off Hotel,” built right next to the separation wall that prides itself with having “the worst view in the world.” The Walled Off Hotel gained more traction than predicted, bringing in well over 140,000 people to Palestine. People who never would have gone had it not been for Banksy. The hotel has become a major boost for Palestine tourism, and it continues to grow with the support of Banksy. People are now able to see the culture behind the wall, learn the history of Palestine, listen to wild stories, and taste awesome food. I like to think people went for the artwork but stayed for the Za’atar.
Banksy has become an inspiration for many Palestinian youth across the world. I remember, when I was a child, seeing his work and having this overwhelming feeling of strength and pride. Something that left a mark on how I see the world. He had - and still has - the awesome ability to reach millions of people with his creativity, and he used that influence to help Palestine, something I believe all Palestinians should be grateful for.
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