Often, the cartoon captions are over-reductive and get in the way of the drawings. The cartoon titled "Lives interrupted" shows walls in intensely small sections, separating each person′s life from the next, while "The wall besieges everything" shows people, animals, trees and sky in tiny boxes, hemmed in by sections of wall. The people sit hunched up, their arms around their knees. Even a soldier has a hard time cramming into the small, walled-in space with his gun.

In another drawing, the wall hulks in the background as a line of women and men, with Sabaaneh′s signature skeletal faces, hold hands and dance the dabke. Their legs are chained together and a checkpoint stands between two of them.

In one of the moving multi-panel works, a boy first watches a bird fly over the wall. After that, he flies his kite over. As he′s flying his kite, he imagines it not as an inanimate object, but as a bird tied to a string that he′s keeping behind the wall. The boy cuts the string, allowing the kite to fly free, beyond the wall.

Black ribbons: remembrance and entrapment

Black ribbons, hung on photos of the dead, also appear throughout the collection. In Sabaaneh′s images, ribbons often snake out from the portraits, looping around doves or suffocating the living. In one, an enormous black ribbon emerges from a man′s portrait, ties around a woman′s neck, binds a boy′s hands together, covers another child′s eyes, tangles up a girl′s hair, closes a bird′s beak and even tangles the hands of the clock.

In another, called "Family photos", there are portraits not only of people with black ribbons in the corner, but also of a fish, a paintbrush, a tree, and laundry drying on the line, all apparently deceased. In "Past and present fight for the future", the black ribbon at the edge of a portrait becomes a dripping spigot: those left behind are drowning in the black liquid.

Trapped together: occupied and occupier

Sabaaneh writes, in his introduction, that he acknowledges "in the process of exerting his political will, the occupier is also occupied." He adds that, "In some of my sketches, occupier and occupier are hard to tell apart."

In one of the sketches, given the over-obvious title "All of us are hostages of the place", both the occupier and occupied trapped together in a glass ship-building jug, stoppered by the soldier′s boot. In another, both a man in the watchtower and the people below are counting the minutes, thinking about their loved ones, wishing this charade was over and they could return to a different sort of life.

The cartoons themselves cry out for a different future where both occupied and occupier can break out of their current patterns and frames, past walls and ribbons, into a freer life.

Marcia Lynx Qualey

© Qantara.de 2018

A European edition of this Sabaaneh compilation "Palestine in Black and White"  is due to be published by Saqi Books on 26 February 2018.

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