For multimedia artist Steve Sabella, these hard times require us to access the potential of our imagination in order to conjure up our collective future. His works of art reflecting the hardships of the Palestinians become universal metaphors for global rebirth.
"We are in the era of something new," says the Palestinian artist. "Of change, opportunity, creativity, imagination. So we must bid farewell to the age of war and hatred. In the post-coronavirus apocalypse, any leader in the world who does not endorse pure awareness to protect the planet first, followed by equal welfare for all its citizens, will eventually have no chance."
When the Covid-19 crisis hit, the artist was about to put up for auction his six metre-wide photographic triptych called "No Man's Land" at Sotheby's, donating all of the proceeds to Birzeit's Palestinian Museum Education Programme.
Ironically, "No Man's Land" — which presents a kaleidoscope of the residue of life — is a very fitting work for these times. It is almost a cautionary tale, representing the catastrophe that might happen if we don't shift our values radically. In the piece, rotting leaves, feathers, pollen and flying dust create a new landscape, where we see lost human-like figures wandering, drowning.
"In many ways, this is the physical and mental state that many Palestinians live in, even those who remained on the land," says the artist, who was originally inspired for the work by the condition of his co-nationals. "And now, this is a reality that might hit all people with the blink of an eye."
As always in Sabella's work, hope counters the darkest aspects: "This piece ["No Man's Land"] inspires us to imagine the beauty of our world and see beyond its surface, especially today when everything is in flux."
The artist, now based in Berlin, was born in Jerusalem's Old City and remained there until 2007. Back then, he felt in exile while being at home: "I experienced first-hand how the Israeli occupation paralyses and controls the body. I felt the extreme psychological impact of what it means to be born under occupation, and live later a trapped reality."
In his body of work a recurring theme is indeed the "Colonised Imagination". This is based on the observation that many Palestinians have reached a point where they cannot even imagine living in freedom, let alone liberate their land.