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Review: Power Born of Dreams


Power Born of Dreams – My Story is Palestine
Street Noise Books
118 pages

Some of you may remember that Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh was arrested by Israel authorities in 2013. He spent five months in jail for 'contact with a hostile organization'. Many suspect his sentence was because of his work as a critical cartoonist.

At the time, we ran a cartoon campaign to spread the word about his wrongful imprisonment. This year, Mohammad has released a graphic novel about his experiences in jail. Or, perhaps more accurately, he uses his time in jail as a red thread to tell stories about Palestinian people and the lives they lead.

The story starts with Mohammad in jail, recounting the interrogations, the boredom and the isolation. The first sentence of the book is a quote by a fellow prisoner: 'When you're in prison, your whole world is made of steel'. How do you get through the day when your world is no larger than a prison cell? Mohammad manages to smuggle a pen and some paper into his cell, to draw about his experiences and drive the boredom away.


4Click to enlarge.


During his time in prison, Mohammad befriends a talking bird. At least, in the book; I suspect talking animals were not a part of his real prison experience. But this invented element allows him to introduce dialogue into the story. Birds are also the universal symbol for freedom, and using a bird as his conversation partner is a clever way to juxtapose his imprisonment with his dreams of freedom. Moreover, the bird plays a crucial element in the structure of the narrative.

Mohammad and the bird strike a deal; the bird will fly out, using freedom to visit the Palestian people and hear their stories. He will tell Mohammad these stories, and Mohammad will use his drawing skills to record them. In this way, we hear stories from a pregnant couple in Jerusalem trying to reach the hospital to give birth, children living in Gaza, and a teacher in the West Bank whose student was shot by Israeli troops. They are all stories of oppression and imprisonment of one form or another.


3Click to enlarge.


These stories deserve to be told, but it is that way Sabaaneh tells them that takes them to a new level. He did not draw his graphic novel, but instead carved every single line, using linocut printing. This results in images that are presented in a stark black and white, giving the work a dramitic quality that works really well with Sabaaneh's angular style that is at times reminiscent of social realism. This style also fits with the activist story that Sabaaneh is trying to tell, protesting against the presence and policies of Israel. Here below is a video where you can the Sabaaneh at work creating some of the pages:



This is a book that deserves a broad international audience. Sabaaneh condemns how Israel treats Palestinians by telling the stories of ordinary Palestinians and by telling his own story. And these stories prove to be a very effective form of resistance. You can order Power Born of Dreams on Amazon (of course), but you can also support your local book store and try to order your copy through them.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


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