Micky Kratzman

From the beginning of the first Intifada (1987), pictures of shahids appeared in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Despite what is generally thought, shahids are not Palestinian suicide bombers, but rather those who fell as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The eyes of the shahids look at you everywhere you go, in the narrow alleys of the Balata refugee camp or among the fashionable cafes of Ramallah.

In both public and private spaces, no house or business is without a picture of a shahid.  The moment he dies, preparations are started for the poster.  A picture, as recent as possible, is given to political movement with which the shahid identified and a text is prepared denouncing his killing and praising him.  The posters are printed and hung everywhere.

Generally speaking, the picture chosen is a portrait with the shahid looking straight at the camera.  It may come from a family album, yearbook, or family event, or it may be a studio portrait, which is very common in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The latter sort of picture, in the right context, provides a direct gaze at the viewer which sometimes seems one of protest or even ridicule.  The viewer is well aware of the gap between the time at which the picture was taken and that of the preparation of the poster, but cannot take his eyes away from the gaze, the expression of the shahid from the fatal event.

An additional graphical element which frequently appears in the posters is the image of the Dome of the Rock, as if to remind the viewers of the reason for the death, which is also the official reason for the beginning of the second intifada.

The pictures are frequently processed with Photoshop:  the head of the shahid is placed on the body of a fighter, the use of “layering” to place the portrait in different sites or areas, etc.

As far as I know the topic of posters of shahids has not been researched, even though I find it a fascinating topic.  The latter is also the reason for this presentation, which is meant to bring a number of posters photographed in the streets and pictures used in the preparation of the posters, and in this way to suggest an important topic for cultural research.

  Shaids (9.95 MB)

The Left, the Right and the Holy Spirit, October 2008