Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project
The Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project carries out Rachel Corrie’s dream of building a sister city relationship between Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine, where she was killed in 2003, and Olympia, Washington,USA, where she grew up and attended The Evergreen State College. “Through collaborative art the mural educates and raises awareness that human rights are universal – everyone deserves a viable life,” says Susan Greene, a clinical psychologist and muralist, who conceived of the project.
Located on the north wall of the Labor Temple building, at the corner of State and Capitol Streets in downtown Olympia WA, the 100-foot-long mural features an olive tree with more than 150 leaves that represent issues including environmental justice, racism, colonialism, rights of indigenous peoples, and anti-war movements, from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. This summer, the Rafah Public Art Project will be completed in the town of Rafah in Gaza, Palestine.
The Olympia Rafah Solidarity Mural embraces innovative technology. Viewers can use a cell phone to call and hear a specific leaf’s creators introduce themselves and talk about the meaning of that leaf’s theme. Some artists have included poetry and/or music to add cultural favor to the image and the audio soundscape. Conceived in 2008 by Susan Greene in collaboration with San Francisco’s Freedom Archives, and created by program designer Sam Stoller, this audio/visual computer technology is also available on the mural’s web site. It adds a powerful and dynamic dimension to the project, utilizing a multidisciplinary approach to communicate the message of each leaf, as well as the history, mission, and goals of each participating artist or organization.
“It was very exciting to include images from Gaza school-age children provided electronically alongside art by Olympian school age children,” Greene says. “We were able to use technology to include images and ideas from those in another part of the world who couldn’t come to Olympia and work on the mural.”
The mural features artwork by local, national and internationals artists and organizations. The numerous local contributors include Pastors for Peace; GRUB, a gardening program; International Trauma Treatment Program; Buddhist Temple of Bainbridge Island; Black Student Union, Evergreen State College; Safe Place Women’s Shelter; several anti-war and veterans groups; KOWA-FM; several organizations in solidarity with Latin America; labor organizations; and others. National contributors include Common Ground in New Orleans, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism from San Francisco, Pomo Indians, Indigenous Youth Delegation from San Francisco; Valarie James, an Arizona artist who created the sculptural installation “The Mothers; Las Madres” as a response to the human suffering and ongoing death of migrants coming across the Mexican/American border.
You’ll see work by Ziad Deeb, an artist living in Gaza who lost both legs and his family in the January 2009 Israeli bombing of Gaza; a photograph of a Palestinian soccer team named after Rachel Corrie; work by Indonesian muralists Sama Sama (means “together”); the Bogside Muralists from Derry, Ireland; artists with Middle East Children’s Alliance; and many artists from Palestine and Israel, including work by Israeli-Jews.
The Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project, in the tradition of political muralists and artists such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, recognizes the unique relationship that now exists between the people of Olympia and Rafah. Broadly speaking, the project highlights the transformative potential of global solidarity, linking struggles for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel to a wide range of oppressions and social justice struggles around the world.
“The project uses culture and technology in innovative ways to build community and to organize for justice for all” says Barbara Lubin, founder and executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which partially funded the project.
The project is co-produced by The Rachel Corrie Foundation (Olympia, WA) and Break the Silence Mural Project (San Francisco, CA), along with co-sponsors The Middle East Children’s Alliance (Berkeley, CA), the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (Gaza City, Palestine), and the International Trauma Treatment Program (Olympia WA).