The golden age for the Palestinian poster dates to the period between the early 1960s until 1982, with the re-emergence of Palestinian identity after it slipped into invisibility after the
The study of posters differs from other sub-fields in art history because posters are at the intersection of an artistic practice and a skill in the advertising industries. A poster is a medium reproduced in serial editions using off-set, lithography, and serigraphy. As such, its monetized value can never reach that of an art work. However, a poster can be as much a masterful accomplishment as any work of art, and because of its serial nature, its modes of dissemination make it sometimes more impactful and more subversive. In the realms of militant and politically radicalized artistic practice, posters hold a special place because artists regard them as an instance of creative expression geared toward popular mobilization. In the conventions of poster design, the visual composition and graphic elements of a poster should speak to a decipherable collective imaginary, use widely known symbols, stylization and strong contrasts.
During the British Mandate, posters were mostly produced for advertising and marketing. However, on the occasion of the
The Nakba produced such a radical rupture that it is almost impossible to unearth a graphic aesthetic repository and presume a transmission of know-how over generations. In 1955, the
The most prolific period of poster production started in the mid-1960s. By the time the PLO moved its headquarters to Beirut, it attracted a nebula of dissident, gifted, and innovative artists and intellectuals. While some artists donated labor, others were remunerated and some were employed in the organization and management of events. They produced and promoted films, photographs, reportages, pamphlets, and posters; the latter were the most effective, lightweight and low-cost means of visual and iconographic communication. Posters were commissioned by the Department of Information and Culture, the
An impressive roster of Arab artists and poets contributed to the production of posters: from
The movement’s leadership was actively invested in nurturing international anti-imperialist solidarity. By the late 1960s, the Palestinian national liberation movement mobilized a transnational creative imaginary.
The posters produced during the 1970s and early 1980s (when the PLO was headquartered in Beirut) took as their subject matter the slogans and objectives of the Palestinian Revolution. The posters showed refugees, men and women, who rise as freedom fighters from the squalor of tents, learning to read and write and acquiring guerrilla warfare skills. They depicted Palestinians farmers, workers, teachers, and poets, all custodians of a rich and diverse culture. Posters were also a means to counter the traumatic dispersal of Palestinians: homes were lost, but the iconic record of having had a home was represented; the land was no longer in sight, but the artistic imagining of the homeland kept the bond of affiliation alive. Posters were used to popularize national landmarks (such as the
The representation of the fida'i was indeed a prominent theme. Predominantly male, his face rarely discernible, usually clad in a kaffiyeh (checkered scarf), he was anyone and everyone, but was invariably upright, a human being who had taken charge of his destiny and was willing to sacrifice his life to liberate the homeland. Another prominent theme is the commemoration of national heroes who fell in battles or were assassinated, beginning with
Posters designed by artists were often reproduced as postcards or book covers, and paintings were also reproduced in posters.
The third chapter in the history of Palestinian poster production, perhaps the most difficult to pin down, begins in 1983, when the PLO was forced to leave Beirut for
The fourth and final chapter of Palestine poster production begins with the Oslo Agreement and the establishment of the
As pivotal field of production of representation and iconography, specifically in the 1960s and 1970s, the collection and transmission of posters have yet to mobilize the attention of archivists and scholars. Poster collections are housed in several university libraries (notably
L'Affiche palestinienne: Collection d'Ezzeddine Kalak. Paris: Le Sycomore, 1979.
Boullata, Kamal. Palestinian Art: From 1850 to the Present. London: Saqi Books, 2008.
Lionis, Chrisoula. “Peasant, Revolutionary, Celebrity: The Subversion of Popular Iconography in Contemporary Palestinian Art.” Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 8 (Special Issue), 2015.
Makhoul Bashir and Gordon Hon. The Origins of Palestinian Art. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013.
Radwan, Shafiq. Al-mulsaq al-Filastini, mashakel al-nash’a wa-l-tatawwor. Damascus: PLO Department of Culture, 1992.
Walsh, Dan. The Palestine Poster Project; palestineposterproject.org.