This digital painting has a history which started in 2006 while I was volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement in occupied Palestine. We were sent to Balata refugee camp because the Israeli army had invaded and was shooting up the place. The army had announced a curfew on the whole camp which meant that any Palestinian caught in the street would be shot. We as internationals were not supposed to be shot so we delivered food and medicine to needy people who could not go out. The next day there were two martyrs, killed by the Israeli army: Ibrahim Issa and Mohammed Natoor, both 17. They had been drinking tea on their roof when the Israeli army shot them.
We watched their funeral procession from a balcony the following day. The way I coped with the horror around me was to draw and paint.
Over the next few days I completed a preliminary drawing in ballpoint pen. The writing says "the blood of the martyrs will fertilize the earth" which was inspired by a Diego Rivera mural of the same name.
Blood of the Martyrs ballpoint pen sketch, 2006
It was spring time in Palestine and flowers were blooming, the weather was beautiful, the sky was blue; a stark contrast to the death and mayhem. I kept repeating over and over in my head "this place is so beautiful, but so horrible, but so beautiful, but so horrible." I showed the drawing to some people in the camp. One man had recently lost his brother to the Israeli army and he asked me to paint it as a mural on his house. I didn't know calligraphy back then so they called in a local calligrapher and he did the calligraphy on the wall.
Blood of the Martyrs mural, Balata refugee camp, 2006
I completed this digital painting at the top of this post in 2019. Some things are hard to forget and to let go of.