The sabra, which is a cactus that bears fruit, has unique significance in Israel and Palestine. It grows wild throughout the area and can survive in any type of weather, with a tough exterior but a soft and sweet interior. People on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict view this plant as a representation of their community’s resilience and determination.
Ahmad Yaseen, a talented artist and faculty member of An Najah University in Nablus, Palestine, came up with a unique idea for his political artwork. Despite the lack of art supplies and education in his community, he decided to use cactus pads as his canvases. This creative solution not only showcases his resourcefulness but also represents the local character that he hopes to capture in his portraits.
Ahmad Yaseen has created a stunning piece of art titled “Patience” in 2016. The acrylic painting showcases a cactus in white and green shades, and Yaseen has painted portraits on it with impressive detail, considering the cactus’s bumpy surface. One portrait depicts a mother nursing her newborn babies, and the mother’s arm forms the shape of a keyhole. Another portrait features an old woman wearing a Keffiyah, with her eyes closed and forehead furrowed while clutching a skeleton key. Yaseen explains that the recurring key motif symbolizes hope and is often associated with the right of return, which is a political principle emphasizing the return of Palestinian refugees to their pre-Nakba homes. In one of his works, Yaseen embedded a stone into a cactus pad and painted a hand holding it, which is the most apparent reference to violence among his cactus paintings. However, he avoids depicting knives or other weapons, which are commonly used during the current infitada.
Ahmad Yaseen’s aim is to promote peace through his paintings. In an interview with Al-Monitor, he stated that he does not paint martyrs or scenes from the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, he draws elements that offer a glimmer of hope and not just despair. Yaseen believes that as an artist, he should have a bird’s-eye view despite the fear that currently exists among both Palestinians and Israelis. When photographing his works, the dry, hilly landscape surrounding them provides a wistful backdrop. For example, in one photo, the antennas of Elon Moreh, which is the center of Israel’s settlement enterprise in the Palestinian Territories, are silhouetted against the sky.
Ahmad Yaseen created a piece in 2016 titled “Life,” using acrylic on a cactus as his canvas.
Ahmad Yaseen is hard at work, focusing his attention on the task at hand. He’s fully immersed in what he’s doing, putting forth his best effort to accomplish his goals. It’s clear that Ahmad takes pride in his work and is committed to delivering high-quality results.
As he works, Ahmad is calm and collected, taking his time to ensure that everything is done correctly. Despite any challenges or setbacks that may arise, he stays focused and remains determined to find a solution.
Watching Ahmad work is truly impressive. He’s a true professional who takes his job seriously and always strives to do his best. With his dedication and skills, it’s no wonder that he’s such a valuable member of the team.