Exhibitions Acquisitions Museums United Kingdom

The Tate buys work about Sabra and Shatila massacres

Drawing of 1982 Beirut atrocity influenced by report from Jean Genet

Sabra and Shatila Massacre, 1982-83, by the Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi

The Tate in London is buying a work based on the massacre of Palestinian refugees,sheltering in camps near Beirut in 1982, which has been called the “modern Guernica”.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre, 1982-83, is a vast drawing by the Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi. The Sabra and Shatila refugee camps were established during the Lebanese civil war. In September 1982, members of the Christian Phalangist militia, enraged by the assassination of their leader, murdered hundreds, and possibly thousands, of the people housed at the camps, despite the fact they were guarded by the Israeli Defence Force. The three-day massacre has come to be considered the bloodiest single event of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

According to the Tate, Azzawi was influenced by a report from the camps by the late French writer and activist Jean Genet, who wrote: "A photograph doesn't show the flies…nor the thick white smell of death. Neither does it show how you must jump over the bodies….". Azzawi's work can be seen in the "Transformed Visions" display at Tate Modern.

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