Art. This is a great story. I read the whole text somewhere else on these endless trawling days of the web... ahh, here we go. The whole letter is 1,968 words, which is not too much for a computer to handle, but is a substantial piece of text when it is being painted on the apartheid wall. The text is an open letter from Farid Esack (1959), who
is a writer, Muslim, scholar and human rights activist, well known for his opposition to apartheid and his appointment by Nelson Mandela as a gender equity commissioner. Esack has also been involved with the organisation Positive Muslims, which is dedicated to helping HIV-positive Muslims in Africa. He has been teaching at many universities, including Harvard University and Xavier University in the United States of America, the University of the Western Cape in South Africa and the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Farid Esack is mawlana, a religious scholar. At the age of 15 he went to Karachi, Pakistan where he studied in a madrassah for eight years. Esack's mission is to create tolerance and understanding between ethnic and religious groups. In Pakistan he was shocked by the discrimination of Christians and the hate against Jews. In Palestine he saw the devastating effect of a new apartheid. On the request of the Sendamessage Foundation, Holland, Farid Esack wrote a letter, which will be sprayed on the wall at Ram (near Ramallah) of 2,625 metres.
The following is the beginning of the letter. Sendamessage has a wonderful website. Please visit, especially as each word of the letter, or so many characters, is being paid for via donation. The begininning of the letter is below, and the painting has begun. Non-violent resistance, again. It is a joint project between the Dutch group and one in Palestine. There is plenty of transparency on their website.
On the Wall near Ramallah.This is a preview of what the letter will look like, and work on it has started as evidenced by the photo in this blog, courtesy of artists against apartheid.
Minimal length: 2,625 metres.
The full letter by Farid Esack comprises 1,998 words or 11,643 characters. Each 1.5-metre section of standard concrete wall segment will hold seven characters or spaces. This means that the full letter will stretch over 1,662 segments of wall, giving it total length of 2,493 metres. If you now add 88 empty segments to separate the 89 sentences, the total length will be 2,625 metres. At the end of the letter there will be plenty of room for extra signatures. With those we expect to surpass the 3,000 metres. However, we are not after a world record. This is about justice for the Palestinians. After 61 years of neglect, oppression and dispossession they deserve a message the world will not readily forget. This message, put into words by Farid Esack, deserves all the public and media attention it can get. [My emphasis].
My dear Palestinian brothers and sisters, I have come to your land and I have recognized shades of my own. My land was once one where some people imagined that they could build their security on the insecurity of others. They claimed that their lighter skin and European origins gave them the right to dispossess those of a darker skin who lived in the land for thousands of years. I come from a land where a group of people, the Afrikaners, were genuinely hurt by the British. The British despised them and placed many of them into concentration camps. Nearly a sixth of their population perished.
Then the Afrikaners said, ‘Never again!’. And they meant that never again will harm come unto them with no regard to how their own humanity was tied to that of others. In their hurt they developed an understanding of being’s God chosen people destined to inhabit a Promised Land. And thus they occupied the land, other people’s land, and they built their security on the insecurity of black people. Later they united with the children of their former enemies – now called “the English”. The new allies, known simply as ‘whites’, pitted themselves against the blacks who were forced to pay the terrible price of dispossession, exploitation and marginalization as a result of a combination of white racism, Afrikaner fears and ideas of chosenness. And, of course, there was the ancient crime of simple greed.
I come from Apartheid South Africa.
Arriving in your land, the land of Palestine, the sense of deja vu is inescapable. I am struck by the similarities. In some ways, all of us are the children of our histories. Yet, we may also choose to be struck by the stories of others. Perhaps this ability is what is called morality. We cannot always act upon what we see but we always have the freedom to see and to be moved. Continue reading.