Virtual exhibit maps Britain's historic role in Palestine

'Mapping Palestine' includes works of various Palestinian artists and is part of a fellowship programme with the Balfour Project, a UK charity

Mirna Sassine's piece 'Into The Woods' is a 'reflective metaphor of life as a mysterious walk into the woods' according to the artist. Courtesy Mapping Palestine.
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A group of artists and students have put on a virtual exhibition exploring the impact of British colonialism on Palestinians.

The online art display, titled "Mapping Palestine", represents a creative critique of the geographical carving up of the Middle East by European imperial powers in the early 20th century.

Rosie Richards and Francesca Vawdrey co-ordinated the exhibit as part of their fellowship with the Balfour Project, a UK charity focused on highlighting Britain’s record in Palestine.

The fact that there is no appearance of Palestine on the world map equates to denial of Palestinian existence.
Rosie Richards

They said their mapping theme seeks to highlight the UK’s historic and present-day impact on Palestine.

“Maps define and concretise territory and are inherently political and often contested. They create worlds and shape reality, legitimise and delegitimise populations”, said Ms Richards.

"The fact that there is no appearance of Palestine on the world map equates to denial of Palestinian existence and results in lack of awareness around the world of Palestine, its traditions and its history."

The virtual exhibition includes artwork from five different Palestinian artists, displayed on the web-based art galleries platform Artsteps. London-based Mirna Sassine contributed three of her "surrealistic" pieces that are heavily influenced by growing up in the historic sea port town of Jaffa.

Mirna Sassine's piece, 'Liberty', is an expression of conflict and breaking free. Courtesy Mapping Palestine

During the First World War, Britain and France secretly agreed to slice up and share the territories then under control of the Ottoman Empire. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement delineated arbitrary borders and fragmented the ethnic and religious make-up of the region.

In a bid to further weaken Ottoman rule, Britain promised a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine under the 1917 Balfour Declaration. The contentious Declaration reneged on the promise made in 1915 to the Arabs that they would be granted independence after the war.

In the post-war spoils, Britain governed Mandatory Palestine until 1946 before the territory was partitioned and the state of Israel created in 1948. In the Middle East, Britain’s actions are regarded as having laid the foundations for Palestinian dispossession and the on-going conflict between Israelis and Arabs in the region.

Mirna Sassine's piece Isolation 'overlooks the past, present and future'. Photo: Mapping Palestine

Richards and Vawdrey hope their exhibit will increase awareness among British people of the crucial historical role their country had in Palestine.

"We believe that this is one of the key reasons why people do not engage more with this issue. We want to raise awareness of the on-going occupation in order to press the British Government to take responsibility for their historic role in the region.”

Updated: July 06, 2021, 2:46 PM