Taqi Spateen

On 8th May 2024, the internationally renowned Bethlehem based street artist Taqi Spateen arrived in Leeds to kick off the UK leg of an international graffiti art project by Bethlehem Cultural Festival.

Taqi Spateen
Taqi Spateen

Graffiti is a major cultural force in Palestine and Taqi has created many murals on the 440-mile long West Bank Wall including the now famous image of George Floyd. Taqi, who creates and exhibits internationally, draws much of his inspiration from his homeland, and his narrative realistic paintings often depict people that are marginalised in the context of the urban environment.

The Bethlehem Cultural Festival’s creative director Melissa Scott says: ‘We are excited to be able to facilitate collaborations between Taqi and UK-based street artists.  We hope the resulting murals will be a lasting legacy demonstrating our hopes to eliminate the walls and borders that divide us as humans.  We continue to be devastated by the violence inflicted on all our friends, artists and cultural practitioners in Palestine.’

The UK project runs until 15th June and during this time Taqi will be working with local artists and arts organisations to produce a series of large-scale murals in 5 cities across the country.  

Taqi’s residency in Leeds ran for a week and was completed on 16th May.  In addition to the long hours spent painting, he took time out to check out the work of other Leeds artists and activists.

Taqi Spateen
Taqi Spateen

The project in Leeds was a collaboration between East Street Arts (ESA) and Leeds Palestinian Film Festival.

During an exciting, busy and thankfully dry week, Taqi created a big, beautiful and powerful image called: To be or not to be (2024), on the gable end of East Street Art’s Convention House. 

Mural building

The artwork features Taqi’s two children alongside a giant daisy – a flower that symbolises Palestinian springtime.

He hopes that by giving his children ‘permanent residency’ in Leeds, the mural will highlight the lack of freedom of movement for many, including his own family, who are impacted by the ongoing Palestinian and Israeli conflict.

Taqi’s own words capture the inspiration for the work: 

“To be or not to be, go away and disappear or stay around and fight, die with dignity and do not live in vain.

Let what you leave for those coming after you say who you are, or leave nothing at all, just leave and when you reach the end of the sky, to not say that you were there.

Do not be stingy with yourself, even picking a petal and make a wish to the others”.

The mural was launched by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite, on Thursday 16 May 2024. It can be seen as you travel out of town down the A64, or pay it a visit at East Street Arts, Convention House, St Mary’s Lane, Leeds LS9 7DP.

all photos by Mick Belford