The olive trees are green and have faces that cry. They reach up to the sky embedded in the dirt-earth, in front of buildings that burn from the roof, and tanks that do not pull back. Yes, children’s artwork is dangerous.
On September 8, 2011 the Oakland Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) cancelled the planned exhibition of A Child’s View from Gaza, curated by the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a Bay Area based humanitarian organization whose work supports children and their families in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. Global Exchange was sponsoring this event, as we hoped to be a part of educating the public on the traumas of militarism, and build-people-to-people-ties through art. The reason for the abrupt cancellation of the art show? According to the museum, lack of facilities. According to the others—the anti-Palestinian-children’s-art-constituency who have publically taken credit for pressuring the museum to cancel—the content made Israel look bad.
“The content of the exhibit was extreme. It would have been outrageous that very young children would potentially view drawings depicting violence,” said Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Rabbi Doug Kahn, who lobbied along side right-wingers such as the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, and the Anti-Defamation League to have the art show censured. However, A Child’s View from Gaza was not the MOCHA’s first run at opening their facilities to artwork by children under military occupation. In 2004, to a warm reception, MOCHA showcased work by Iraqi children who depicted the disproportionate brutality children experience under military invasion, in an exhibition curated by Joan Miro.
Barbara Lubin, Founder and Executive Director of MECA commented in the Electronic Intifada that these groups who pressured the MOCHA “try and suffocate the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and censor Palestinian cultural initiatives. What they’re doing is financing the work of silencing and shutting down anyone who wants to talk about what’s really happening to Palestinians.”
But MECA is not spiritless. The crying olive trees and sad suns will be on display tomorrow, Saturday September 24th from 1-3 p.m. in a renegade show outside of the once venue at 538 Ninth St., Oakland, CA. Associate Director of MECA, Ziad Abbas said “it was important for these children to know that their voices were going to be heard in Oakland. However, they didn’t expect the siege to stretch all the way from Gaza to California, which is essentially what happened when MOCHA canceled the exhibit due to pressure from these groups.” Abbas has visited the GX office just a few weeks ago for a stalwart presentation, and his own recollections from a childhood in a refugee camp exemplify how children’s experiences of war and violence can never really be erased. Saturday’s event will be family-friendly, including music, poetry, food, and will celebrate the creativity of these very small artists.
For GXer’s in the Bay Area, MECA is calling for a protest today, at MOCHA’s Cave-In (just outside the Cave-In), Friday, Sept. 23 at 3 p.m. (538 Ninth St. near Clay, Oakland, by 12th St.-City Center BART).
P.S.: The Middle East Children’s Alliance is an ally organization of Global Exchange, and has graciously donated some great items to our Open House—Thursday Oct 6th in San Francisco. Help us sustain our work for peace and justice, by purchasing your prize drawing ticket today!