For artist and organizer Leila Abdelrazaq, comics are a means of communication as much as a beautiful mode of self-expression. In her solo show, Drawing the Diaspora: Comic Art & Graphic Novels by Leila Abderazaq, at the Arab American National Museum (AANM), the Palestinian-American artist presents common narratives of the Palestinian refugee and immigrant experience. The goal, she has said, is to connect with and instruct a Western audience that may be less familiar with these stories.
On display at the AANM are selections from Baddawi, Abdelrazaq’s debut graphic novel, which interprets her father’s life experiences, growing up in the 1960s and ’70s amidst the civil war and the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon and Beirut. Other works on display include Mariposa Road, a short comic highlighting an intersectional fight for Palestinian and undocumented rights, through the true story of two men from Gaza who enter the United States undocumented via the US– Mexico border.
Her work promotes a sense of solidarity amongst marginalized voices, as with her #Arabs4BlackPower series, which is meant to highlight the tangible connections between the Palestinian struggle and the Black struggle in the United States, and features captions in both Arabic and English.
I spoke with Abdelrazaq over e-mail and asked her how she characterizes her own work, which defies easy interpretation as either art or activism. She elaborated on the themes she tackles, including the representation of the Palestinian diaspora, and the ability for comics to convey dense and complex issues in a more easily digestible format.