He is the British graffiti artist who uses public buildings and spaces to display powerful and socially charged images. This time he has chosen the war-torn Palestinian territory to shed light on the desolation, devastation and dire conditions in which these people are "imprisoned."
He posted a two-minute video on his website titled, "Make this the year YOU discover a new destination."
In the video, he says he accesses the closed-off area through illegal and secret tunnels, bursting out of a door to a rubble-filled courtyard with a small child sitting amongst the ruin next to an oil drum. On his website, he writes, "Gaza is often described as 'the world's largest open air prison' because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons — they don't have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day."
Banksy is best known for his thought-provoking and often controversial images, posted in even more impressive places, and you have probably seen some of his images, even if you don't know it.
The video and images are likely to cause quite a stir, both in support and in protest. They show the reality on the ground for the everyday people in the area, which is living in the aftermath of last year's bitter shelling and fighting between Hamas and Israel.
But it seems he is not just artistically commenting on the ruin and devastation; he is trying to have a broader and further-reaching impact on lives in the West through the actual images he chooses to display.
For example, about the image of the kitten, he said, "A local man came up and said, 'Please — what does this mean?' I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kitten."
And by harsh I mean true.
And by true I mean it makes you rethink what you are worrying about, obsessing over or even wasting time looking at on the internet. The most powerful thing about the kitten image is not only the children who are playing in front of it, but what the man says in the video about it. "This cat tells the whole world that she [is] missing joy in her life... the cat found something to play with. What about our children?"
Image: Banksy YouTube
Another image, to me, looks like a play on The Thinker, set inside a lone-standing doorway, the building it once belonged to long gone.
The elusive artist's also unknown publicist released Banksy's official statement to The New York Times, saying, "I don't want to take sides. But when you see entire suburban neighborhoods reduced to rubble with no hope of a future — what you're really looking at is a vast outdoor recruitment center for terrorists. And we should probably address this for all our sakes."
According to Oxfam, 100,000 people have had their homes destroyed. An estimated 450,000 people do not have access to running water, and the electricity does not work 18 hours of the day.
I am not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. I am neither their ethnicities nor their religion, so I don't think I have the right to have an opinion on who should "own" that strip of land, and I don't pretend to know or understand all the things they are fighting about or for, no matter how informed I think I am.
But what I do know is watching children play in what used to be their neighborhood, which has been bombed into oblivion without the physical ability to have it rebuilt because of governmental interference is tragic, no matter your ethnicity or beliefs.
If it takes someone spray-painting on a bombed-out building to get people's attention in the West to the dire everyday lives of folks and the unseen toll the recent war has taken, then I think most of us would agree: Spray-paint on, Banksy.
Because, after all, as he showed at the end of the film, "If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful — we don't remain neutral."
Watch his whole video here.
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