Naji al-Ali: A Tribute

Naji al-Ali: A tribute

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The life, work and legacy of the great Palestinian cartoonist

This event was originally scheduled for 29 August. Tickets purchased for the original date will be valid.

Naji al-Ali drew over 40,000 cartoons before his untimely death in London in 1987. From sharply critical commentaries on Palestinian and Arab politics and political leaders to visionary symbols of inhumanity and the pity of war – his work transcended the divides. This event explores the remarkable power and influence of his work, and a legacy which continues to the present.

Participants include The Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, political and Palestinian historian  Karma Nabulsi (University of Oxford), graphic artist Hafez Omar* and former friend of Naji al-Ali, Yousef Qandeel. They are joined by Palestinian musician Reem Kelani performing traditional songs from the from al-Ali’s birthplace near Nazareth and Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon to which his family was exiled.

Hosted by Omar Al-Qattan, Chairman of the A M Qattan Foundation.

Naji al-Ali (1938–87) was a Palestinian political cartoonist. Born in Galilee, al-Ali was a victim of the nakba (“disaster”) in 1948 when his region was cleared to make way for Jewish settlers. He grew up in Lebanese refugee camps and prisons, scribbling protest cartoons on the walls, and eventually found work in newspapers. From 1969 onwards, his images featured the figure of Handala, the barefoot child who silently watches all the evils perpetrated in the Middle East, and who has since become an icon of Palestinian defiance. Naji al-Ali was shot by unknown assailants outside the offices of ‘al-Qabas’, a Kuwaiti newspaper, in London on and died five weeks later in August 1987.

Steve Bell is probably best known for the daily strip called If…, which has appeared in The Guardian newspaper since 1981, and since the mid-1990s he has also been that newspaper's principal editorial cartoonist. He has covered all major political events in the period in his trademark style, which echoes the great satirist James Gillray and artists such as Goya and Hogarth. Steve was British Cartoonist of the Year in 2003 and has published several collections of his work.

Reem Kelani is a Palestinian singer and musicologist, born in Manchester, brought up in Kuwait and now living in London.  Reem has introduced many non-Arab musicians to Arabic music. Moreover, has pioneered the introduction of Arabic music in schools across the UK and has lectured at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University, Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, Shanghai’s Conservatory of Music and Damascus’ Higher Institute of Music. She wrote and presented Distant Chords on the music of migrant communities in the UK and Songs for Tahrir on the music of the Egyptian revolution for BBC Radio 4. Reem’s two albums Sprinting Gazelle and Live at the Tabernacle have gained wide acclaim across the world.

Karma Nabulsi is Professor of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University, and Fellow in Politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. A specialist in the history of political thought, the laws of war, and the politics of Palestinian refugees, representation, and democracy. She directed and is editor of the register of civic needs for Palestinian refugees and exiles: Palestinians Register: Laying Foundations and Setting Directions (2006), and in 2017 won the Guardian Higher Education Network’s ‘Inspiring Leader’ Award.

Hafez Omar is a graphic designer from Ramallah, Palestine, and creator many powerful posters and online images. In 2012 his image of an anonymous blindfold Palestinian prisoner became the avatar of countless Facebook and Twitter users.

Yousef Qandeel is an activist and friend to Naji al-Ali during his years in London.

Omar Al-Qattan was born in Beirut and moved to the UK at the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War. He trained as a film director, and went on to produce Michel Khleifi’s award winning Tale of the Three Jewels (1994), shot entirely in the Occupied Gaza Strip, and Zindeeq (2009). In 1999, he launched the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s cultural track, including, a few years later, the Palestinian Audio-visual Programme. The Foundation also runs a children’s library and cultural centre in Gaza City and an educational research and development programme focused on Palestinian school teachers.

In 2008, Al-Qattan established The Mosaic Rooms in London, a leading cultural space focused on the Arab World.

He has contributed to a number of English and Arabic language publications as well as co-editing New Horizons in Palestinian Art and Hope & the Aesthetic Moment, and writing chapters to two books: Dreams of a Nation (on Palestinian cinema) and Nakba: Palestine, 1948 and the Claims of Memory. He was also Chair of the Shubbak Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture in London in 2013 and 2015.

Part of the programme that accompanies the display Comics and Cartoon Art from the Arab world in the British Library Treasures Gallery. 

Followed by a book stall.

The Knowledge Centre Bar will be open from 18.00 until 22.00.


Name: Naji al-Ali: A Tribute
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546