Saj Issa for Art & Ecology

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Saj Issa is a Palestinian-American visual artist based in North America. Her work spans across a variety of mediums including painting, performance, and sculpture. At this point of her practice, her work is anti-nationalist and anti-flag, with a larger scope focused on the land and the people instead of a government entity within art activism.

PSA-STL is a public art project that features text installations throughout St. Louis. Issa is the current artist presenting her banner install last month. Luminary-PSA-Saj Issa-7 (2).jpg

Saj_banners_proof.png The banners say, “What Garden will you assemble when the walls are torn down?”. She uses this prompt as a metaphorical question, to have the audience think about who their community will be when we no longer have imperialist structures looming over us.

FXT58969_Palestine (1).jpg Since the start of the genocide, Issa has been making a single poppy painting a day, spending five minutes on each one. (Early in the war, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N. said that a Palestinian child is killed every five minutes in Gaza. On the backs of these paintings is written, “Return to Saj. Return to Palestine”. She believes that “whether they be Palestinians in the diaspora or fellow Palestinian activists who have never been, it’s everyone’s right to be able to visit.”

DC23-2-2.jpg These paintings are distributed and held in marches since October. Saj specifically intends to focus on language like anti-war within her work and spaces her work is in, because she feels that Western media and society tends to shift the focus of the larger issue at hand: ecocide and genocide. Ecocide is the destruction of a land by people.

Issa’s collection of Poppy Paintings will be on display at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in September on a reworked larger scale.

“The acts of war associated with Ecocide also include the use of arms of mass destruction (nuclear, biological or chemical), attempts to provoke natural disasters (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or floods), the military use of defoliants and explosives, the leveling of forests, attempts at climate modification and the …”

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Palestinian plight is not only the genocide of the people but also the land, and not exclusively for Palestinians but all lands that are war torn. The genocide has included a systemic destruction of Palestine’s ecology and agricultural landscape, to prevent abundant life from existing there. Over 40% of the agricultural land previously used for food production and a third of the region’s greenhouses have been intentionally destroyed.

What anti-nationalism means- Anti-nationalism is the opposition to nationalism or to the interests of a specific nation. Are you loyal to a government entity or are you loyal to humanity?

Why are you Anti- Flag?

“Flags tend to hold a lot of history of politics and bureaucracy that many people don’t always agree with. So if they want to distance themselves from the conflicts that a specific government has inflicted, it’s important to find ways to unite a people apart from the imperialist structure. Flags are so quick to create division amongst people, in my experience of showing up to demonstrations, it was beautiful to witness the variety of things people were able to identify with and still stand 10 toes down next to each other. I believe it doesn’t require a flag to do so.”


What symbolizes Falasteen to you outside of the flag? My ancestors, the fertile land, aromatic jasmines, the seductive bougainvilleas that spread over railings and fences. Any and all of its beauty that emboldens nostalgia and purity.