Flying in solidarity with Palestine
Artists craft kites in order to support the Palestinian community.
Twine, fabric, and dowel cover every free inch of free space at Cyber Love Hotel. People who can’t find a table set up their materials on the floor as fabric starts to take the shape of a kite with images of the Palestinian flag, watermelons, and the slogan “From the River to the Sea.”
On Dec. 1, Arts4Palestine invited participants to create kites for the Global Kite Flight, a global initiative to show solidarity with Gaza. Using supplies donated by various arts organizations in Montreal, the event was an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity with Gaza and art as a medium of resistance.
“Art speaks to what's happening on the ground. Art speaks to what people are seeing and it’s a way for people to heal, process, share, and illustrate,” said Nashwa Lina Khan, activist and co-founder of Arts4Palestine.
Arts4Palestine is an art collective with a focus on knowledge sharing and co-creation. The collective also emphasizes providing a safe and accessible space to the Arab diaspora in Montreal. Khan has spent the past ten years facilitating and participating in pro-Palestine advocacy as a community educator, facilitator, and researcher.
“I think there’s been a big gap in the last seven weeks,” she said. “Arab people have already historically not been given space in art galleries. People want to create art, they want space, people are wondering what they can do but it also means these events need to be accessible.”
The event was co-organized with Artists Against Artwashing, an initiative demanding cultural institutions such as museums to divest from settler colonialism and genocide and Cyber Love Hotel, a Montreal-based artist studio and organizing space. Cyber Love Hotel donated their space and materials to make kites in solidarity with Gaza. Additional supplies were provided by Arts4Palestine and Articule, an artist-run centre dedicated to showcasing underrepresented and BIPOC artists.
“Looking at your phone and reading the news about people getting murdered is one of the worst thing you can do for yourself spiritually…” said Jules Galbraith, a member of Cyber Love Hotel. “It’s really important to be together, laugh a bit, do something you feel is contributing, and not feel completely isolated and like the world is on fire.”
Kites hold a lot of significance in Gaza. According to the United Nations (UN), in 2011, more than 5,000 Gaza children broke the world record for most kites flown simultaneously. More than 13,000 kites could be seen at Al-Waha beach. This followed an attack on the Summer Games facility in northwest Gaza.
“There are also moments of joy in Gaza. It’s not always misery,” Khan said. “Solidarity can take many shapes. It can take the shape of a protest. It can take the shape of a petition, the shape of a sit it. It can take the shape of flying a kite.” — Khan
According to Kites in Solidarity, a global initiative that coordinates events to show collective support for Palestine, “Those same children now face unprecedented levels of physical and mental trauma, hunger, and displacement.” This act of resilience inspired Kites in Solidarity to start the Global Kite Flight. On Dec. 3, artists, activists and other participants collectively flew kites in cities across the United Kingdom, America, Canada and Africa.
“The art of making is resisting. The art of joining in voices and existing in the same spaces is important for building a strong community for the resistance,” said Dre Vargas Alonso, a Montreal-based artist who helped Khan plan and coordinate the event.
Khan explained that it’s important to attend protests, but they are not the only form of solidarity. Arts have long been a part of decolonial resistance, whether it’s music, poetry, or other mediums.
“There are also moments of joy in Gaza. It’s not always misery,” Khan said. “Solidarity can take many shapes. It can take the shape of a protest. It can take the shape of a petition, the shape of a sit it. It can take the shape of flying a kite.”