The first brushstrokes have been laid for the Olympia-Rafah Mural Project. A joint endeavor of the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice and Break the Silence Mural Arts Project from San Francisco, the mural is an expression of the sister-city relationship between Olympia, Washington and Rafah, Palestine, and will be completed cooperatively with artists from Rafah and around the world. Throughout the year, Olympia community members painted over 500 leaf-shaped clay tiles with their visions of social justice and peace; these leaves will “grow” on the tree this spring. In addition to tile leaves, images will be painted on canvas by local organizations with images of linkage between struggles. The mural will illustrate connections between the Palestinian issue and social justice movements for fair housing, land rights, the rights of indigenous people, and environmental justice both locally and the world over. At over 4,000 square feet, the Olympia-Rafah Mural will be the largest mural in the United States to focus on Palestine.

Project artists and leaders will be on-site at the wall this Saturday. We encourage community members to stop by and join us for conversation, paint a tile leaf, and attend an 8pm film screening at the wall of Bil’in Habibti (Bil’in, My Love), a documentary about the town of Bil’in in the West Bank. The villagers of Bil’in, and those who stand in solidarity with them, have for years engaged in weekly non-violent demonstrations to alter the course of the separation wall through their farmlands. Work on the mural will continue throughout the weekend, when the mural’s central image will be completed: an ancient, gnarled olive tree representing life and growth, movement upwards from strong roots, and a traditional aspect of the Palestinian landscape, culture, and economy. Over a million olive trees have been uprooted to build settlements and the separation wall; the International Court of Justice has ruled that the separation wall illegally appropriates Palestinian land within the 1967 Green Line.

Proposed by muralist Susan Greene, this project follows up on two murals which Break the Silence painted in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, on the Rachel Corrie Center for Youth. Susan recently returned from working on mural projects in Bi’lin and at the Edward Said Conservatory of Music in Ramallah. The Olympia-Rafah Mural Project builds on these connections and aims to help break the current siege on Gaza though artistic and cultural responses. Project members have been working to bring two artists from Rafah to participate in the sister city mural project in Olympia. To date they have been forbidden to leave the Gaza Strip, and will participate using online tools. Over 200 people from Gaza have died of preventable causes due to these ongoing border closures, and many more continue to be denied the right to access medical care and pursue educational opportunities. The Olympia-Rafah Mural Project seeks to raise awareness of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, and works in solidarity with the Palestinian desire for self-determination. Artist Susan Greene states, “By bringing people together and making connections between movements we aim to strengthen, build, and diversify the movement for justice in Palestine. Please join us.”