Shadi Zaqtan

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Different Class's goal is to provide young artists with the space to freely express themselves. Our commitment lies in amplifying their voices and what they stand for. Despite our will to remove ourselves from the equation when it comes to our artists’ voices, we cannot accept neutrality or take distance from the question of systematic colonial oppression. As a cultural platform, we remind our audience – whether you are an artist, a creative, or just a spectator – of the power that words hold. 

We asked several creatives to share their thoughts on art, resistance and freedom. Illustrator, Sirien Salameh, painter, Ismail Mattar, artist, Firas El Hallak, musician Shadi Zaqtan, poet and co-founder of Palettes of Palestine, Hala El Mohor, photographer, Abdulazez Dukhan and art collective Tashattot -  each shared their unique forms of expression regarding Palestinian freedom. 

For you, what does it mean to be free?

I believe freedom is the opposite of all of this, freedom is for this not to happen.

In what concrete ways can the art and cultural sector effectively help with the current situation?

At this time, it means more than it does in a normal situation. We are being subjected to a systematic genocide that has been going on for 75 years, which has now reached its peak... and there is this parallel war on top of it. A cultural and media war, in which Palestinians are being stripped of their humanity and represented as models of barbarism and cruelty. The Palestinian struggle to achieve freedom is turned into a process of sabotage. I believe that the Palestinian narrative is also under bombardment and has always been under siege.

As an artist living in Europe, Do you think your audience and environment understand your art, and deal with your art the way you intended?

I moved to live in Europe only two years ago and I am still active in my city and in the region, in Jordan and Palestine, so I am not cut off from the East. It is also worth saying that the Arab diaspora has turned into a culturally active force that can compete in its overall movement in Europe, as an Arab capital. In addition to that, there is a growing interest of the young Western society in Eastern culture and the sources of the topics we approach.

I believe that the Palestinian narrative is also under bombardment and has always been under siege

But I certainly had to change a little in the way I present some sensitive, often political, topics. However, I found a fundamentally open front in the arts, on the immigrant culture front, the topics approached and the desire for change. It is not very different from the Eastern approach to the world. There are two warring worlds: one of them wants to suffocate the other and the other does not stop appearing. True culture occurs far from the halls and salons of global culture, which now, more than ever, seem dull and superficial. The world is revolting like a volcano everywhere else, demanding the basics that Western art does not talk about and does not experience.

True culture occurs far from the halls and salons of global culture, which now, more than ever, seem dull and superficial

And does the meaning of your art change according to where it is being consumed?

While the presentation of the artwork changes, the essence of my art must not change. Confrontational work is immensely important in this time period. Perhaps the time has come for artists to present themselves without any accompaniment. For us, as artists, to not have to avoid calling things by their names. Occupation is occupation. Ethnic cleansing is ethnic cleansing. Racism is racism... Perhaps this time the world should listen more respectfully. It is unthinkable for me not to talk about the inhumane bombing of Gaza because the Western listener does not acknowledge it at all, and will not acknowledge its victims. So perhaps he does not have to listen at all and why should I explain it to them? The occupation on this side of the story must also be an occupation on the other side. If we do not agree on what is obvious and apparent, then there is no point in continuing the attempt to communicate, through art or otherwise.

Because the Western listener does not acknowledge it at all, and will not acknowledge its victims. So perhaps he does not have to listen at all and why should I explain it to them? 

An artwork, poem, music, or photo you want us to look at/learn more about today?

I believe that the images coming from Gaza exceed the ability of any piece of art to say anything.

All of the music you have published on your Spotify account carry heavy political messages. Like ( say falasteen, Gaza, country etc...) Why is that so?

I am a Palestinian artist. A Roman artist will talk about Rome and what is happening there, in Beijing or Moscow as well. What the world considers a heavy political concept is daily and normal for me. When I can finally reach point zero, when I reach freedom, I can start singing about what bothers me as a person; the noise, the overcrowding in the metro, the malnutrition of the pandas in the zoo. But until that time, what interests me and touches me are the dreams and ideas that some of us would go to prison for just by saying or writing them. 

Do you think art can be nonpolitical?

Certainly, when governments end and we move as humans and as societies to different cultural and civil regions; when borders, whether geographical or class, dissolve when the planet’s famines end and the depletion of the remaining animals stops, when the violation of the environment and the generous planet that contains us ends. When it is all dismantled, when all the inhabitants of this planet enjoy warmth, security, food and education... then there will be no need for art to be political.

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @shadizaqtan <br/> Donate now to Medical Aid Palestine or to the Palestine children's relief fund to address urgent humanitarian needs in Palestine. Or learn more at Decolonize Palestine. </div></div>

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