UN urged to recognize cultural significance of Palestine posters



A 1978 Palestine Liberation Organization poster by Emile Menhem protests the Camp David accords. (Palestine Poster Project)

A new interview with Palestine Poster Project founder Dan Walsh, recorded by the Institute for Palestine Studies, gives a in-depth look into the history and contents of this collection of 10,000 posters.The interview was inspired by the nomination of 1,700 of the collection’s posters, dubbed The Liberation Graphics collection, to the UNESCO Memory of the World program. If accepted, the nomination will place the collection on a list of globally significant piece of textual heritage which include the Book of Kells, the Phoenician Alphabet, the Gutenberg Bible and the Bayeux Tapestry.

The Palestine Poster Project collection overall contains works by approximtely 1,900 artists from 72 countries, and is divided into four wellsprings of inspiration for creating artworks, all of which Walsh considers in some way to represent part of the cultural heritage of the Palestinian people — whether in a negative or positive sense. Walsh has been collecting Palestine-themed posters since the mid-1970s.

As Walsh explains in the interview, the collection includes any poster with the word “Palestine” on it, in any language. This means that among the selection are Zionist posters, because in the early days of Zionism, migrants referred to the land they were settling as Palestine and to themselves as Palestinians.

There are also colonial posters in the collection, including a French tourist image dating from the nineteenth century.

But the UNESCO selection, and perhaps the most distinct part of the collection, are those created by artists of the Palestinian resistance, both within occupied Palestine and in exile. These include items from the early days of the Fatah movement and posters which show the impact of Israeli repression on Palestinians.

And the project also holds many international solidarity posters, including one that Walsh believes to be the earliest example of an American poster criticizing US support of Israel.

According to Walsh, one of the most important repercussions of the UNESCO nomination is its potential to spread word about the poster archive and, he hopes, to inspire Palestinians “perhaps like those who were living in Brazil in the 1950s” who may have old posters stored away to document them and send them to the project.

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