The journey of Naji al-Ali and his Handala character [Archives:2008/1186/Culture]

September 1 2008

Nisreen Shadad
For The Yemen Times

A symposium held at the Yemen Center for Studies and Research in Sana'a, from the 26 Aug. to 3 Sept., intended to celebrate the life and work of Naji Al-Ali, a Palestinian cartoonist. This symposium involved a cartoon exhibition, a documentary and a film about Al-Ali. Many Yemeni researchers, artists and critics attended the symposium and discussed Al-Ali's life and works.

Celebrating Al-Ali is a celebration of art, which is alive and never dies. It is a celebration of a figure that is a symbol of struggle, a person who could make his art more effective than swords.

Al-Ali was threatened and in London he was shot and died, according to Amina Al-Nasiri, a well-known Yemeni plastic artist. Al-Ali was shot in the face and mortally wounded in London by unknown persons on 22 July 1987, outside the offices of Al-Qabas, a Kuwaiti newspaper for which he drew political caricatures. He died five weeks later in Charing Cross Hospital, according to Jamal Jobran, a researcher.

Lamya'a Al-Kibsi, a Yemeni plastic artist, said that the cartoon exhibition was impressive, and that the caricatures were effective and expressive.

“Al-Ali's works often reflected public opinion and were sharp critical commentaries on Palestinian and Arab politics and political leaders,” said Qadri Ahmed Haidar, a researcher at the Yemen Center for Studies and Research.

He is also well known as the creator of the character portrayed in his cartoons as a young witness of the satirized policy or event depicted, and who has since become an icon of Palestinian defiance.

“Al-Ali is our living conscience