Palestinian political cartoonist Naji al-Ali was born in 1937 in al-Shajara, a small Palestinian village in Galilee. In May 1948, the village was destroyed by Jewish forces, and its 893 residents were exiled. al-Ali's family escaped to Ayn al-Helwa, a refugee camp in southern Lebanon. He was only ten years old. While in Lebanon, he acquired a passion for drawing and began expressing his political thoughts and feelings, and his pain, through art.
In 1969, al-Ali created his most famous character, Handala, a ten-year-old boy. Handala represents every Palestinian who suffered and still suffers because of the Nakba. Describing Handala, al-Ali said: 'I drew him as a child who is not beautiful; his hair is like the hair of a hedgehog who uses his thorns as a weapon. Handala is not a fat, happy, relaxed, or pampered child. He is barefooted like the refugee camp children; his hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way'.
Naji al- Ali still has vivid memories of home: 'I feel that I can recall and sense every bush, every stone, every house and every tree I passed when I was a child in Palestine. He expresses, "He will always be ten years old. At that age, I left my homeland, and when he returns, Handala will still be ten, and then he will start growing up. The laws of nature do not apply to him. He is unique. Things will become normal again when the homeland returns."
From approximately 1975 through 1987, Naji Al-Ali created cartoons that depict the complexities of the plight of Palestinian refugees. These cartoons are still relevant today, and Handala, the refugee child present in every cartoon, remains a potent symbol of the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and self-determination.
Photo source: https://tinyurl.com/2b2sy9pp