Palestine drawings. Pencil drawings by H. Spears, 1989.

  • Spears, Heather, 1934-
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Drawings by Heather Spears.
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About this work


Drawings by Heather Spears of children wounded in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1989.

Heather Spears provided the following information about the 26 drawings of Suhaib Abu Ghosh, a 16 year old Palestinian boy shot in the brain and treated at al-Maqassad Hospital, East Jerusalem.

"Suhaib Abu Ghosh, then sixteen years old, became well known in Jerusalem. He was shot with live ammunition while standing on a low wall, but the border police denied shooting him (using live ammunition within the city was prohibited at that time), and claimed that he was hurt by falling off the wall. At Maqassad Hospital, Dr. Nammary said that to have sustained such massive injuries, "he would have had to have fallen three storeys". X-rays, confirmed by Israeli doctors as well, showed shards in his head. In spite of witnesses who heard the shots, and a Tel Aviv medical student's offer to Suhaib to testify that he had heard border police describing having shot him, a spokesman from the Israeli police stated that it not possible to reopen the investigation

"I kept returning to Suhaib, who lay in a coma for four weeks in Intensive Care. Shot in the brain's right hemisphere, he was (and remains) paralyzed on the left side of his body. I'd thought that a coma meant total unconsciousness and total immobility, but for Suhaib it was like a terrible nightmare. He was constantly moving and his right hand had to be tied so that he didn't tear out the tubes or respirator. They couldn't keep blankets on him; he thrashed about, dragging his paralyzed side with him, rolling himself in his sheets. Seeing one of the drawings (no. 124) a nurse commented, "That is a drawing of despair." He had a particular look while in the coma (no. 107). I drew him as Dr. Dajani gripped his hand and called out to him, "Squeeze! Squeeze!" trying to get a response (no. 106)

"Suhaib's family were almost always with him; his father, the principle of a school in East Jerusalem, was there for many hours every day. His father's Israeli friends were also grieved for Suhaib; the story was printed in the Israeli papers and therefore could be reprinted in the (censored) Arabic-language papers as well. Suhaib awakened suddenly. I was in Nablus, and when I got back he had been awake for three days. The first thing he had done was to write, in a trembling scrawl, what he remembered had happened to him. "I stood on a wall 130 cm. high, and before me were four soldiers from the Border Guards. One aimed his rifle at me and hit me in the head, and after I fell down, they began to beat me." These words, in his strange handwriting, had been published in all the papers

"His father was radiant: "Suhaib has been talking for three days straight, he remembers everything, even the last thing he saw, the face of the one who was beating him." He urged his son to speak to me in English: "Show Heather how well you speak English, Suhaib." Suhaib had hold of my hand. He turned his burning eyes directly on me, and said, "There is no God. I have gone to him and he refused me, so I refuse him." It wasn't just the contrast between the totally affectless voice and the matter of his words (someone described this by saying, "Suhaib is speaking in tongues")--there was something else in his aspect that made me want to use the word "burning" and that gave him such terrible authority. If everyone could be this moved, something was visual; if I could pay enough attention, I could see what it was and draw it. I looked again into his eyes, and saw that his pupils were huge, blotting out all but a tiny rim of amber, and black as pits that open into hell. Later, he fell into a healthy sleep against his father's arm, and in a few days he had lost the sardonic smile and was smiling truly. "There is a God, and I thank him, and secondly I thank the doctors," he would repeat in that same soft, running voice.

"On the evening I made the last drawing of him (no. 291), I had forgotten my colours, and he was lying across a homemade flag. I left the drawing In his hands, begging him to write on it, and went off to fetch my colours. But when I got back he was asleep, and his father had written a polite, politically acceptable message on it for him: "From the children of the Intifada to the children of the free world, our greetings. We will meet when the occupation is over in our land of Palestine.". "



Physical description

33 drawings : pencil with coloured chalks




Wellcome Collection 655322i

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