“Look at us as humans, deal with us as humans, and that’s all I want. If you deal with me that way, I’ll be very proud.”
Graffiti artist Marck Emaya is a Fine Arts student at Dar al-Kalima University College Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. Since childhood he has been fascinated with art, particularly graffiti. Enticed by the colours he saw on walls in the movies he watched with his family, he decided to create art of his own.
As well as being an art student, Marck spends time teaching children (and even some of their parents) how to draw and paint at the school next to his university. He explained how he uses surrealist thinking to create his concepts, then mixes abstract and classical art in his paintings. The premise behind his work is to get people to recognise Palestinians as humans and not as terrorists or expendable numbers.
Marck said that the perception problem is two-fold, firstly with how Palestinians see themselves: “If you look at people in Palestine, they don’t think of themselves as humans and are always looking for ways to prove that they are humans. But who has the authority to tell them whether or not are they are human?
“We may have different colour skin and speak different languages but put religion aside, put politics aside, put all the bullsh*t aside and you will see in the end we are all human.”
The problem is secondly related to how Palestinians are perceived by others. The “Palestinians are terrorists” narrative has grave impacts on Palestinian lives. Marck spoke of how others profusely stare at him and his beard as though he is a terrorist. This is especially the case when he travels to other places through Jordan.
“The entire journey they watch me. I’m going to keep my beard and break the image they have made of us.”
When asked if he feels the occupation has affected his education, Marck explained that he is only able to paint from what he sees: “I cannot paint an angel if I do not see one.”
The same goes for the sea. Marck was unable to see the sea until he travelled to study in Greece two years ago – and even then it was not in his own land. It was apparent that the restriction of movement and the limitations placed on Marck play on his mind.
This painting is called “Resistance” and hangs on the studio wall. It conveys the transition that occurs during occupation when human lives become numbers.
“When you hear of people dying in the news, you often hear that ‘1000 have been killed’, but there are no real feelings in that number.”
In this painting Marck also explains that to simply exist is not enough. To merely be there is a statue stance – so he has painted them as statues. Movement is freedom.
Critical concepts in art
Marck is critical of violent movements saying that Palestinians too are doing bad things along with the occupation. He condemns stone-throwing and believes that the most powerful form of resistance is seeking education and knowledge. His favourite work is this painting:
He shows us a hefty sketchbook filled with drawings. The concept in these works is to change the human to a beast. This proved challenging because changing the figure makes it looks like another creature. So he retained and accentuated core facial features: eyes, nose and mouth to make it more realistic.
“Our mouth is always open and our tongue is out. This is to show how we talk but we don’t always think.”
Marck said that if people want to look at Palestine they cannot just look at the Palestine of today but must look through history – what has happened, who has been present, and try to listen to Israelis’ stories, as well as Palestinians’ stories, before making up their own mind.
The message Emaya wanted to leave was this:
“Just look at us as humans, deal with us as humans, and that’s all I want. If you deal with me that way, I’ll be very proud.”