Quick Reads

Art & About: Aesthetics of a Genocide

Art is the weed that grows on the perfectly manicured lawn of the oppressor.

Credit : Indie Journal


Art has been around since the beginning of human time. Early humans would leave marks on the walls of caves; drawings that would represent all aspects of life have been found, and so have handprints of all sizes high up on cave walls. I like to picture a child, reaching with an outstretched hand being lifted up by her parents so she can reach and place her handprint alongside that of her family’s.

I don’t know if the prehistoric people created art because they wanted to leave behind a trace, evidence that they were here, they lived and felt or if humans were simply meant to create art and it is as much part of our humanity as is laughing or crying or breathing, but what I do know is that if I wanted to wipe out the collective humanity of a people, that is where I would begin. I also know that when a civilization falls, often the only thing to survive from it is art.

Any occupier targets art and artists because any expression on the part of the occupied is rebellion, therefore art is first and foremost a rebellion. That is why, when the Occupying state of Israel banned the Palestinian flag, they also banned artists from using the colours red, black and green from paintings, they banned artists from painting watermelons, and people from carrying watermelons. When artist Issam Badr asked what if one was to paint flowers using these colours, they said even flowers of this color were forbidden—absolutely nothing in red, black and green. Especially no watermelons.

Funny thing about art is, the more it is suppressed the harder it resists. Artist Sliman Mansour would paint Palestinian landscapes; olive groves, farms and such. There was no “political” aspect to his art, until one day a soldier from the Israeli Occupying Forces reached his gallery to censure his artwork. Why? Because a dehumanized occupied population commits a highly political act when it depicts life in a place that is condemned to death. That incident of censure led to him committing his life to “political” art.



France has openly supported Israel in its atrocities and after a left-wing MP was suspended for 15 days for waving the Palestinian flag in the national assembly, left-wing MPs showed up to sessions wearing colours of the Palestinian flag to protest the French Government’s sale of arms and parts to the Occupying state of Israel, arms used to commit genocide on the Palestinian people. Sometimes one doesn’t even have to pick up a brush or pen or even click the button of a camera to create art. The beauty of resistance is that it is art regardless of whether someone is watching or not.

Apart from of course, the essential documentation of the ongoing genocide, a video stood out to me of a family cooking food in the ruins of their home in Gaza, shot artistically, and eating it overlooking the destruction of their city. The juxtaposition of the indulgent food and the rubble, and the mere act of living their lives and enjoying their food while they are actively being dehumanized is poetry.

The only difference between legitimacy and illegitimacy is consequence. But for a soulless, dead-eyed populace that asks no questions and takes no action, the line separating legitimate from illegitimate has disappeared. Lies can be truth if enough people believe them. Forget believe, enough people asking no questions and demanding no answers turns falsehood into testament.

While the world turns away from this barbaric white-supremacist imperialist massacre, while families are destroyed, babies are murdered, and civilians are being bombed, let me remind you that in the name of a global outcry, all we received was an AI generated image with the slogan “All Eyes on Rafah” by the very same “artists” that were terrified of being put on the digital chopping block.

None of them halted to consider the nuances of this issue. They did not even have the decency to share the images of the violence, the details of the genocide, the links to fundraisers, the boycott list; how could they when these are the very people who had to return to working with Zionist actors, and promoting the very brands and lining their pockets with money from the very corporations that are funding the genocide in Gaza.



I suppose it is foolish to expect celebrities to have ethics and a spine. For all we harp on about art and resistance the artists and celebrities (with the exceptions of a few), the ones with the most clout and fame and money do not wish to use it for any such cause. Those that have everything and more than they need will risk nothing, and those that have so little will risk it all for the hope of a better future.

Celebrities back home in India do not comment on domestic issues. They do not call out the violence and subjugation in Kashmir, they do not speak about the violence against Dalit women, they do not speak about the rampant state-sponsored islamophobia, and so it is foolish to expect their humanity to awaken over Gaza, as brutal as the images might be. I suppose it is always more important to hop, skip and jump over the seven seas and go make it big in Hollywood, so what if one has to conveniently jump over some dead babies in the process?

They are more than happy with their UNICEF ambassadorship for which they take pictures with a couple starving, poor children, although none from any controversial areas lest their bountiful revenue stream be temporarily obstructed, and then show their support for the genocidal leader of their country to round it all off and close the day. 

So not all art is created equal. In fact, not every packaged enjoyable creation can even be called art. Without resistance, without truth, without courage there is no art. Art without these is simply a product, something to sell, something to trade, a commodity that is shoved down our throat so we marvel at how shiny it is instead of standing up and asking questions.

Art is the weed that grows on the perfectly manicured lawn of the oppressor no matter how much force; guns, bombs, rockets, or any other suppression tactic is used. Regardless of how many you uproot and crush, it will always grow back. 

For an occupier to retain power he must occupy land, pillage, murder, suppress and wipe out a population, but for the occupied, survival in itself is a revolutionary artistic act of rebellion.