Palestine Celebrates Banksy in New Exhibition

“Thank You Banksy” is Bethlehem’s tribute to the cult British artist

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From several murals in Gaza, to his ‘Walled Off Hotel’ (a hotel-meets-museum-and-gallery located in the West Bank in Bethlehem) cult British artist Banksy has been praised for raising attention on the plight of Palestinians for more than a decade. Last month, he auctioned three paintings entitled Mediterranean Sea View 2017, donating the entirety of the $2.9 million sale to a Palestinian hospital.

And this is why Bethlehem-based Palestinian tour guide Yamen Elabed felt like it was time to pay homage to Banksy’s work in support of Palestine. Aptly titled Thank you Banksy, the pop-up exhibition displays 20 pieces of Banksy’s artwork in the city’s Manager Square.

“Banksy always surprises us and today I want to surprise him and educate people about his artwork”, confirmed event coordinator Elabed in a video message uploaded on August 18. “I just want the message of thanks to reach Banksy, he has helped our economy with ‘alternative’ tourism”, he adds.

Last December, Bansky created buzz with his nativity scene, residing in his “Walled Off Hotel”. Dubbed Scar of Bethlehem, his dystopian take on the nativity scene shed light on Israel’s oppressive occupation. 

At a time when Palestine is suffering from both a pandemic and Israeli airstrikes, tourism in Bethlehem has been hit hard. Although some may criticize Banksy’s work in Palestine, castigating it as “oppression tourism”, residents have come together in a mission to give back. Around 300 people have already visited the open-air exhibition since it opened on August 12, cementing that Banksy has given Palestinians a sense of pride and optimism.

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