Art in Times of Struggle: Palestinian Symbols in Amman

Written by Silas Gaughran-Bedell, (American University), Student Correspondent for CET Jordan, Spring 2024

Throughout the past semester, the ongoing siege on Gaza has continuously loomed in the background of Jordanian society. Present in restaurants and cafes, the news displays harsh realities of what is happening less than 150 km away. Jordan is, by most estimates, a majority Palestinian country (HRW), with this population originating from Palestinian refugees that arrived during the Nakba in 1948 and the Naksa in 1967. Because of this, the Jordanian populace carries an inseparable cultural connection to Palestine and has felt the effects of this war in many ways.

The effects of the war are plentiful; the country copes with loss and the additional impacts on the economy, as industries like tourism have suffered, affecting the livelihood of many workers in Jordan. When talking with Jordanians, the same story is repeated. Working-class people of all ages were forced to find work in new places or take additional jobs since the beginning of the war due to the struggles of their previous workplace. Additionally, nonprofits struggle as aid has been diverted to assist those suffering in Gaza. Amid chaos and loss of life, the Palestinians in Jordan remain a resilient group finding outlets for expression through art.

Art of a wall in a street in Amman, Jordan of hands held together

Graffiti specifically has had a long-standing connection to expression in the Arab World being present, particularly in places like Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon. Amman, a city of limestone and concrete, can feel monochrome, but street art has contributed to brightening the city. Not only does it provide beauty and character to the city, but it also gives artists an outlet for the expression of themselves and the Jordanian-Palestinian identity.

Since I arrived in Jordan at the beginning of the semester, I honestly don’t know what to expect and how the current situation in Gaza would affect cultural expression. However, when walking through the streets of Amman, the Palestinian identity remains proudly represented in graffiti on the walls and music in the streets.

Wall art of a building in a street of Amman, Jordan

While music is an important aspect of art, in solidarity with the ongoing situation, live music has died down. However, songs like Dammi Falastini (My Blood Is Palestinian) are continuously blasted in the streets and the stores across Amman. Art is an essential aspect of any culture, a reflection on the realities of the issues facing a certain community, and in Amman, it is being used as such.

In downtown Amman, graffiti has become the main way for artists to express themselves. Symbols of Palestinian identity are ever present, including the Palestinian Keffiyeh, Handala, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the olive tree. These symbols represent the long-lasting struggle of the Palestinian people against the occupation. These expressions of art in the streets of Amman represent the hope held by the Palestinian people for a better future by preserving their identity in the face of ongoing persecution. Outside of being important for expression, art brings color to the city while also holding this cultural importance.

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