Celebrating Palestine: A Calendar

A commemoration of a history of oppression, and a celebration of Palestinian poetry, created by Katherine Mackinnon and Shona Macnaughton.

The calendar was inspired by the 1984 Palestine Solidarity Campaign calendar by typesetting collective Bread ‘n Roses, a copy of which is held in the Glasgow Women’s Library within the Camden Lesbian Centre and Black Lesbian Group archive. The original uses images from Palestinians and their society, 1880–1946, a photographic essay by Sarah Graham-Brown which examines Palestinian life at the end of the Ottoman era and throughout the British Mandate via “photographs taken by rulers, ruled and passing observers”. In the calendar each image is accompanied by Palestinian poetry which speaks to some aspect of the image; August’s cemetery in Hebron sits alongside the words of Mahmoud Darwish: “O comrades of the distant dead / Don’t ask: When will he return?”.

Every month, dates from the twentieth century history of Palestine are marked alongside their particular year. 9 April 1948: Massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin. 19 April 1936: National strike in Palestine begins. This is a simple but effective way to show the harrowing, and repetitive, presence of violence and oppression in the country. Every month contains a bloody anniversary: occupation, siege, bombing, massacre. We decided to reproduce the format in a similar spirit of solidarity with the Palestinian people and horror at their continuing, and escalated in recent months, oppression at the hands of Israel. In the 2024 calendar we kept those original dates, and updated them to include 40 more years of occupation, massacres, genocide.

Omar Al-Mukhtar Street Gaza
Omar Al-Mukhtar Street Gaza in 1964. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This exercise provided further education to us and, we hope, to the people who hang the calendar in their kitchens, on the depth and breadth of historical precedence for the most recent violence in Palestine. It also reminds us of the frequently overlooked role of Britain in this history. We have maintained from the 1984 calendar the image for November, which is a copy of a public statement issued by the British Government in support of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. 2 November 1917: Balfour Declaration issued.   

Putting the calendar together was a race to the end of the year, and one which involved several important collaborations. Benjamin Fallon gave design input, updating the typography and layout. Good Press then riso printed the calendars, in the colours of the Palestinian flag. Glasgow artist Sara Abdelnasser provides the cover artwork, from a series of paintings she has produced since October documenting both real individuals and communal symbols of Palestinian grief, pain and resistance. Archive photographs used in the 2024 calendar are in the public domain and have been sourced from the collections of the Library of Congress, New York Public Library and Wikimedia Commons.

The poetry in this version is drawn with kind permission from A Bird is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry (Freight Books, 2014). This book is sadly out of print but is available (reference only) at Glasgow Mitchell Library. The poems in this book were chosen by the authors themselves to be translated by some of Scotland’s foremost poets and writers, with the aim of bringing them to a new audience. We are glad that the act of pairing these Palestinian writers’ work with archive photography in an echo of the 1984 calendar means that their words will be read across this year in homes across Glasgow and beyond.

The calendar features translations of Palestinian poetry, including this translation of ‘Not Only Rivers’ by Tareq al-Karmy, translated by Alasdair Gray.

Not only rivers have a source.
Paths trickle from single dwellings till,
fed by tracks from villages they go
through towns and cities. Swelled
by tributary streets till they end
in mighty ports and seaside resorts.
Roads die when peoples’ hopes, fears,
wishes, traffic, no longer flow through them,
unlike rivers which are not made by fishes.

On the 22nd December we learned that Salim al-Nafar, one of the poets in A Bird is Not A Stone, was killed along with his family when Israel bombed their home in Gaza. All proceeds from this calendar were split equally between Medical Aid for Palestinians and Palestine Action.

Katherine Mackinnon is a writer and researcher interested in histories of migration and everyday life in Scotland. Shona Macnaughton is an artist based in Glasgow, making performance, writing and film concerned with labour, subjectivity and the social effects of design.