by Mike Rhode
Black and White / Thoughts in Cartoon by Mohammad Sabaaneh, Washington, DC: Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds. November 17 – December 15, 2018. https://www.thejerusalemfund.org/21159/november-cartoons
Mohammad Sabaaneh is a self-taught Palestinian cartoonist, who, like all good editorial cartoonists, often finds himself in trouble with both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments. Notwithstanding the need to teach art, and the regular seizure of his artwork when he returns from travelling (and thus he says he only carries reproductions personally), Sabaaneh has been able to compile a book, White and Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine (JustWorldBooks, 2017; $20). While touring the East Coast for this publication, he stopped in Washington to introduce a small exhibit of his linocut art.
|The Weight of Occupation|
|The Dictator’s Melody|
I found the strongest pieces in the show to be two pieces, “Resisting settler colonialism everywhere” and “She carries remembered worlds,” each depicting generic Palestinian people, a man and a woman, with their bodies fading into buildings. Both evoke a strong sense of place and purpose, more so than “Can you chain a heart?”, an image of a heart wrapped in chain. The exhibit also contains a long “History of Palestine Frieze” which is about five feet long and shows a history of the occupation via cartoon figures. Sabaaneh says he plans to do more large-scale works like this, and has recently completed one on the subject of women.
|She carries remembered worlds|
|Resisting settler colonialism everywhere|
|Can you chain a heart?|
At the exhibit opening, Cartoonist Rights Network International’s Bro Russell interviewed Sabaaneh, who then also took questions. (The Fund has said that a transcript will be soon made available on their website). The audience was made up of students and people already familiar with the Palestinian cause, which Sabaaneh says actually works against him, because most of the people who come to see him at a talk or an exhibit are already convinced and do not need to argue with him or his work. For those not familiar with his work, the exhibit and the book are a good introduction to a world where political cartoonists still matter enough to be regularly threatened with more than job loss.
|History of Palestine Frieze segment|
(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 20:2, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on November 18, 2018, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)