Palestinians set up an exhibition displaying 20 pieces of Banksy’s artwork in Bethlehem to pay tribute to the anonymous British street artist who, they say, has helped diversify the tourism industry in the city, reported the Guardian.
The words “Thank you Banksy” were sketched across the beach in Gaza by artists, in coordination with the exhibition. Four of Banksy’s artworks are in Gaza.
Delivered in a video message to Banksy uploaded on Tuesday, event coordinator Yamen Elabed said: “Banksy always surprises us and today I want to surprise him and educate people about his artwork.”
With almost 300 people in attendance, the exhibition was organsied “to show Banksy that we are grateful for the support”.
“I just want the message of thanks to reach Banksy, he has helped our economy with ‘alternative’ tourism.”
This event comes after the British street artist donated the $2.9 million proceeds from the sale of three of his works to a Palestinian hospital
According to the Guardian, taxi driver Ayoub Ali, who attended the exhibition, said the appearance of Banksy’s work had helped to diversify tourism in Bethlehem, a major pilgrimage destination.
“They [tourists] only know Bethlehem is where Jesus was born, the Church of the Nativity – which I am proud of – but Banksy’s idea is also to see where there are 3 million Palestinians living, in the West Bank.”
Banksy frequently addresses the struggle of Palestinians.
In December, the British artist brought a sombre Christmas spirit to his Walled Off Hotel with a nativity display dubbed “Scar of Bethlehem”, evoking the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which features a miniature Jesus, Mary and Joseph under a rendition of Israel’s illegal concrete West Bank Separation Wall punctured by bullet holes.
Israel claims the barrier that cuts through the West Bank has been set for its “security”, however Palestinians see it as a symbol of oppression in Israeli-occupied land designated as part of their future state.
Banksy has also created a number of works on the Separation Wall itself with graffiti which Elabed, who claims to be a big fan of Banksy, said placed the anonymous artist at risk.
He said: “In 2005, he was the first graffiti artist to draw on the wall, and it was a risk because during the first and second uprising, graffiti on the wall was forbidden, many people got hurt or arrested for doing graffiti.”
It’s a move that gained him a lot of respect from Palestinians. He added: “Banksy did a lot for Palestinians. We want to see him again in Palestine.”