One of Naji Al Ali's cartoons
Cairo – Sara Darwish
Today marks the 25th death anniversary of renowned Palestinian artist Naji al-Ali, best known as the creator of character Handala, a symbol of the Palestinian revolution and a symbol of resistance in the whole Arab world. On July 22 1987, while outside the London offices of al-Qabas, a Kuwaiti newspaper for which he drew his political caricatures, Naji al-Ali was shot in the face. He died five weeks later in Charing Cross Hospital. However his name has lived on and many still refer to him as the "Conscience of the Revolution”.
Al-Ali’s caricatures were not limited only to the Palestinian suffering, but extended to include the deteriorating conditions of the Arab nation. He drew over 40,000 cartoons, which often reflected Palestinian and Arab public opinion and were sharply critical commentaries on their political leaders.
Handala is the most prominent figure created by al-Ali; portraying a ten-year old boy who holds his hands behind his back, it was a symbol of the Palestinian suffering the occupation injustice. Handala appeared for the first time in the Kuwaiti newspaper "al-Siyasa” in 1969 and al-Ali described him as "the icon that represents defeatism and weakness in the Arab regimes.”
In 1948 Al-Ali emigrated to southern Lebanon and lived in Ain el Helwa camp, he then migrated from the camp at the tender age of ten. He was arrested more than once in the Israeli jails because of his anti-occupation activities. He spent the majority of his time inside the cells painting on their walls.
Al-Ali’s artistic career began in 1961 when he was discovered by the late Palestinian journalist and writer, Ghassan Kanafani. The latter had seen some of his work and decided to publish them in the 88th issue of "el Horreya" newspaper. In 1963, al-Ali traveled to Kuwait to work as an editor, painter and director journalist for a set of newspapers including “al-Taleea,” “al-Siyasa,” “al-Qabas” and the Lebanese newspaper “al-Safir.”
Al-Ali left our world in August 1987, leaving behind not just an amazing collection of his work but also a name that will always be remembered.