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Art for Palestine: A painting to commemorate Sabra and Shatila by Ron Waddams

Dec. 20, 2017, midnight

The Palestinian struggle for human rights testifies to the resilience and courage of the Palestinian people, and the international support of their cause. A modest but very significant event that expressed hope for a just peace for Palestinians took place at the Palestinian Mission UK on 28 November. It was a coming together for Palestine, which demonstrates that the quiet work of individuals committed to justice will ensure that the Palestinian cause will always be remembered and articulated in creative ways.

The occasion was the unveiling of a very special painting, Lamentation and Resolution, by the late artist and Quaker, Ron Waddams. The painting was the artist’s personal response to the inhumanity of the Sabra and Shatila massacre and had been gifted to the Palestinian Mission by the trustees of the Larren Art Trust, founded to care for Ron Waddams’ art and handed over to His Excellency, Ambassador Manuel Hassassian at the Palestinian Mission on 28th November 2017.

At the invitation of Ambassador Manuel Hassassian, the greatly respected patron of Arab arts, Omar Al-Qattan visited the Mission to view the painting. Omar Al-Qattan is Chair of AM Qattan Foundation, founder of the Mosaic Rooms and former Chair of the Palestinian Museum. He attended the unveiling ceremony with members of the Larren Art Trust, Ian Jacobs, the son-in-law of the late artist with his wife, the artist’s daughter, Jan Jacobs and the late artist’s friend and fellow Quaker, Ian McFarlane.

Ron was born in London in 1920. His father worked for the renowned fine art printer, Emery Walker, whose house museum is a short walk from the Palestinian Mission. Visual language and craft were part of his upbringing. At age 16 Ron attended Ealing Technical College and School of Art. His first employment was as a general office boy in a print shop in Camden.

His experiences during the 1939-1945 war did much to shape Ron’s internationalism and abhorrence of war. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the United Nations, trusting that international cooperation might contribute to the resolution of conflict and the promotion of human rights.

Upon settling with his young family in the British village of Chalfont St Giles, he founded a branch of the United Nations Association whose members supported the work of the UN for many years. In due course, he joined the Religious Society of Friends (‘Quakers’).

Lamentation and Resolution (1983, acrylic on board, 244x122cm), one of his most striking works, must been seen in this context. The painting mourns the dead, but also expresses a profound belief in the possibility and power of reconciliation.

The painting currently has pride of place in the Mission’s main reception and cannot be missed by the many visitors who pass through the building every day. At the unveiling, event, however, some exciting plans began to take shape which will mean the painting will start a new journey to Palestine where it will be viewed and enjoyed by ordinary Palestinians, the people it aims to espouse and give hope to.

Ambassador Hassassian made the suggestion that the painting may have greater exposure in Palestine and the Palestinian Mission could make arrangements to ship it there. Mr Al-Qattan agreed and proposed that it could be exhibited under the auspices of the Qattan Foundation, first at the Friends Meeting House in Ramallah and subsequently at the UNRWA building in Jerusalem before finding its final home at a Palestinian institution. Before it begins its travels, however, there will be a final opportunity to view it here in the UK, at an event which is currently being planned in 2018. News of this will be sent out in due course.

The story of the painting and its creator demonstrates that the cause of Palestine continues to inspire and will never be forgotten.

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