Yesterday was the opening of gallery showcasing the work of the very young Palestinian cartoonist, Mohammad Sabaaneh, at the Balad Theater. His caricatures are pretty interesting, and some were even an eye-opener for me. One of the main differences in his work from all others, was the way he attempts to capture the Palestinian street. Not just in terms of the larger political problems, struggles and conflict; but the every day things like expensive gasoline and poverty. The very social dynamics we often lose sight of with the focus being so much on the inherent larger issues. Getting to chat with Mohammad afterwards, I told him that I felt one or two of his pieces, particularly the humorous social ones, had very Hajjaj touches to them, while others, the more Palestinian cause, were bold homages to Naji Ali, with his trademark figure Hanzala featured faded in the backdrop. He said something which I found to be true: that a lot of people are so used to either Ali or Hajjaj’s work that it’s become engraved in their minds so to speak, and we look at new work in that context. But the influences are, nevertheless, obvious.
I also noticed that given his age, and similar artists of his generation, the art itself has evolved. Whereas Ali’s work was reminiscent of a time personified by Palestinian nationalism and resistance, this more contemporary work paints a more depressing portrait of struggle, blood, and at times failure. Yet despite these changes, that have a lot to do with youth I suppose, some things have remained the same: like Arab apathy.
In any case, if you haven’t checked it out, please pay a visit to the Balad Theater this week. The gallery will only be running until Thursday so time is ticking. You can get more information on the facebook group or his personal website.