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HOPE  & OPPRESSION

Fear drives you on

Hope takes you home

Nakba Triptych

A mother and baby kneeling withstanding adversity from opressing soldiers

Nakba

60x80cm, acrylics on canvas, 2021

In 1948 an estimated 750000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes and lands as a result of Israeli action. This is called Nakba in Arabic meaning ‘the disaster’ or ‘the catastrophe’. This oppression of Palestinians included the uprooting of their ancient olive trees that supported many families for centuries and it is still going on today.

The painting presents this cataclysm as a universal trope of suffering, displacement and stoicism in the face of tyranny and cruelty. 

The universality of the mother and child imagery represent the overarching link between faiths, suffering and survival–this can be the Madonna, a displaced Palestinian or Jew and any woman protecting her child from tyranny. 

 

This painting was inspired by the conversation between Dr. Gabor Mate and Russell Brand on Trauma and Israel. As an immigrant I relate to the themes of displacement and oppression and I hope this painting highlights the need for tolerance and respect for differences, no matter what culture or religion. 

Havoc

50x100cm, acrylics on canvas, 2021

Havoc has a multi-layered meaning that encompasses chaos and confusion, even anarchy, as well as historically being a military command enabling soldiers to take the spoils of war and unleash total destruction. It essentially was permission to ignore any morality and to act with no rules; the command for the ultimate breakdown of moral order and the unleashing of evil. 

The quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar refers to the Dogs of War, which is a metaphor for soldiers as agents of conflict without boundaries or concern for the suffering of innocents.   

This painting was originally inspired by the bombing of Gaza but is meant to present a universal image where destruction and disintegration of values comes before humanity. It also reminds us that humanity and love is above any conflict, regardless of loyalties.

A mother and baby escaping war
A raft with refugees crossing dangerous deep waters

Hope

100x50cm, acrylics on canvas, 2022

The last painting of the triptych was inspired by the dangerous journey thousands of refugees take. The dreadful conditions they must endure, displacement, persecution and racism are endured because of one thing – a hope for a better future. Fear drives them out and hope urges them on. Hope for themselves and their children. I want this painting to be a reminder that there is always a reason behind people’s desperate actions. No matter what race or culture, we all must hope.  People would never risk their children’s lives for a petty reward; they only consider this ordeal of migration because there is no choice, no going back, no hope from where they came. 

A couple watch an olive tree branch grow and they're surrounded by a horse and a dog

Indestructible

26x26cm, acrylics on canvas board, 2022

The killing of people by peoples, waving proud flags drenched in blood–when it all pauses a couple sit in a field somewhere around a flower and talk of hope and future. Nations fight nations always, couples seek love all ways.

Opus Dei

50x60cm, acrylics on canvas, 2022

This painting is inspired by the discovery of the unmarked graves of hundreds of First Nation children that were forced to attend residential institutions in Canada called ‘Indian Residential Schools’.

 

Originally set up under British dominion, the British colonial policy also funded the early missionary work that eventually became religious institutions that ran the boarding schools. The conditions in these schools were appalling and the children were often beaten and verbally and sexually abused. Many died from disease, neglect and suicide. 

The main aim was to strip away their language, culture and identity.

 

In 2015, the truth and reconciliation commission determined that the residential systems had amounted to a ‘cultural genocide’.   

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A pair of snakes on the battlefield

Uhuru

47x67cm, acrylics on canvas

Opus Dei

50x60cm, acrylics on canvas, 2022

This painting is inspired by the discovery of the unmarked graves of hundreds of First Nation children that were forced to attend residential institutions in Canada called ‘Indian Residential Schools’.

 

Originally set up under British dominion, the British colonial policy also funded the early missionary work that eventually became religious institutions that ran the boarding schools. The conditions in these schools were appalling and the children were often beaten and verbally and sexually abused. Many died from disease, neglect and suicide. 

The main aim was to strip away their language, culture and identity.

 

In 2015, the truth and reconciliation commission determined that the residential systems had amounted to a ‘cultural genocide’.   

A house with two sinister hands coming out of the front door grabbing teepees. A canadian residential school with unmarked graves.

Surveillance

Pegasus horse and spyware

Pegasus

100x100cm, acrylics on canvas, 2021

This painting presents oppression in the form of surveillance. Inspired by Pegasus spyware scandal reported by the Guardian and Forbidden Stories. Pegasus is the hacking software that can quietly infect one’s phone and then access all parts of the phone such as its camera, voice recording, GPS, messages and thus turn it into a 24-hour surveillance device feeding the information back to the attacker. 

Developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, it has been sold to governments around the world on the basis of security and anti-terrorism but there is proof that it has been used to track journalists, political opponents, human rights defenders, business people and even heads of state. In rare cases journalists have been killed after having been selected as targets.

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International said: “(…) the abuse is widespread, placing journalists’ lives, those of their families and associates in danger, undermining freedom of the press and shutting down critical media. It is about controlling public narrative, resisting scrutiny, suppressing any dissenting voice.” 

Watchers

80x80cm, acrylics on canvas

Covert surveillance was a way of life in Czechoslovakia and other USSR countries. Not just from the government but from neighbours, colleagues and  even friends. Living a life of constant awareness of being watched but never seeing the watchers. It's not just in other countries, it's here too.

 

London has the most number of surveillance cameras per capita than any country in the world. But the real oppression comes with not knowing who is watching. It's the sense of constant surveillance that invades your psyche and prevents peace of mind. A silent courtyard in a block of flats holds the threat of many watchers–all the time. Windows have Eyes and Ears.

A sewage bar
A courtyard in Brno

Underworld

40x40cm, acrylics on canvas

But where there is oppression there is resistance. It generates defiance like power generates energy. In extreme oppression the resistance has to go underground–visible when tactics dictate. There is also a psychological underworld of resistance where you defy the oppressor and the watchers by refusing to live in fear, refusing to be cowed mentally. That is the place to find and go to when fear beckons. It shines here to show you the way.

Migration

Held

30x60cm, acrylics on canvas

at last the border

at last the warm welcome

stripped and held 

exhausted

too weak to struggle

all that is left is prayer

Poems by DOD

A man holding on
A tree behind bars

Barred

50x70cm, acrylics on canvas

the flight from horror ended here

they did not think of prison

in their dreamland

their hope of safety

was not of this

to watch the trees through bars

not theirs but ours

DOD

Uproot

50x40cm, acrylics on canvas

are we the same people

when we root up and

not down?

are we suddenly a different folk

when our face doesn't fit

and our songs play so strangely

not lilting

like at home

can we change when uprooted?

we cannot we must not,

we are the same heartbeat after all

Trees upside down

DOD

A stylised group of figures with some falling to the ground

At the Border

50x40cm, acrylics on canvas

they gather round to see the child

it's parents escaped to save it

it died in a camp of misplaced hope

they gather round to wail

the world turns away, it is too painful to

watch

their pain

DOD

Denuded, Displaced, Destroyed

46x57cm, acrylics on canvas

we all play our part

some play it well, others with 

half a heart

the result is devastating

dignity dies when stripped away

A naked figure of a man standing against 3 wires

DOD

A stylised figure with a black hole in the chest and holding a pricked heart in the hand

The Offering

40x50cm, acrylics on canvas

refugees bring their hope

their heart and soul to us

we must return it unbroken

and thank them

DOD

Strange Fruit

43x53cm, acrylics on canvas

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Written by Abel Meeropol

Performed by Billie Holiday 

A stylised tree with two black figures hanging of it
Two abstract figures holding hands

Winds of Change

40x60cm, acrylics on canvas

in the end they have to walk

it's all the can do

just walk and walk

driven to suffering by the threat of more 

it's a bad choice

for anyone

DOD

Giant Steps

58x68cm, acrylics on canvas

walking holding striding shuffling

travelling to hope

shuffling to life

they move because stasis destroys

DOD

An abstract figure walking against colourful background