Café Art – Olive and Sage
Olive and Sage
The olive tree is vital to the small Palestinian economy for its produce – the fruits, their oil, the beautiful wood – and has become a powerful and poignant symbol of Palestinian steadfastness.
Olive trees grow in the poor, rocky soil of Palestine and survive with little water, in cold and also in great heat; whilst retaining their leaves and producing fruit.
Similarly, for more than a century Palestinian people have had to survive upheavals, displacement and injustice; all kinds of deprivations and shortages – from basic foodstuffs to material goods, medication, services, training, transport, work – most vitally, water, which is often diverted from their own lands to irrigate those of others. Yet they retain their dignity, humanity and even optimism.
The sage plant, with its soft, purplish-grey leaves, is a feature of the small areas of cultivated soil that some Palestinian families have around their homes. A few of its beautiful leaves make a delicious and comforting infusion: a cup of sage tea after a hard day can restore one’s balance and spirits.
Sometimes a strong plant such as these can endure whilst people, homes and belongings are moved or lost. May they continue to symbolise the strength and determination to remain, to grow and to flourish that the people have shown so admirably. And may they gain justice and their freedom.
About the Artist
I am a representational painter, living and working in North London. For the past few years I have been painting and drawing plants in close detail (though some paintings are up to 5′ x 5′ in size). The whole plant interests me but I also like to focus on its component parts – roots, stalks, seed-heads, pods, leaves and fruits.
This year I joined Artists for Palestine. These drawings are in pen and ink – in some cases, with watercolour.
Through my sister, Cina Zacune, I have a modest involvement in Palestine, especially since my visit there in 2014. I was in close contact with the beautiful tree that provides that most vital crop to the threatened Palestinian economy, the olive, when
I was privileged to stay with a Palestinian family and to pick olives at harvest-time in the plantations of several farmers, with a group of multinational volunteers. Our daily activity was very rewarding and it enabled us to meet the farmers. But through this and the many talks, discussions and films we attended we learned more and more about the harsh and frightening reality of the lives of Palestinians, the daily injustices, privations, delays, denials, obstacles, attacks and humiliations they face on their illegally-occupied land, on their streets and at the checkpoints by members of the heavily-armed Israeli military and police force.
The dignity and strength of the Palestinians is symbolised for many of us by the steadfast olive tree and the optimistic sage plant. They are beautiful, strong, productive and nourishing.
I never tire of looking at them, and of remembering the homeland and the people they represent.
1st November 2015