Zaki Baboun is a self taught painter from Bethlehem. He sees his paintings as good stewardship of his talent and as a way to express his reality. His paintings encapsulate the deeply religious tradition of Bethlehem with its ongoing political turmoil. This past month, in an effort to have a more theologically-thoughtful use of the space,Zaki has been working on four images painted on the walls of the College’s Guests Dining Hall. We had the opportunity to ask Zaki a few questions about his work as an artist, his faith and his vocation.
SD: How did you start painting?
Zaki Baboun: That’s a good question. I started working with Olive Wood carvings 25 years ago. I also painted, back then, but always treated painting more as a hobby. Five years ago with the encouragement of some friends I started focusing more on painting and experimenting with different techniques. I am very grateful to both Rev. Mitri Raheb and Rev. Alex Awad who always encouraged me to keep painting. Rev. Alex included two of my paintings in his book ‘Palestinian Memories’ and Rev. Mitri gave me the opportunity to display my work in exhibitions in Dar Annadwa. Through their support I have been able to display my work in international publications and venues.
SD: As an artist, what motivates and inspires you?
ZB: God gave me this talent and I have the responsibility to share the message.I believe that my call as an artist is to create great art for the common good. I want my work to be fundamentally pleasing to God.
SD: What do you mean by message?
ZB: Since I am a Palestinian, I feel part of the message that I share is the context that I live in. Through art I have the opportunity to represent my faith as well as my context. That is why my message is both religious and political; it is a portrayal of faith in the Palestinian context.
SD: Tell us about your experience painting in Bethlehem Bible College.
ZB: It was a new experience for me. I have never painted on walls and it took me more time than I expected. The first challenge I encountered was to find a theme for the paintings. With Pastor Jack Sara and Jamal Atik, we thought about many options. Finally we decided that the painting should revolve around our traditions and our Christian faith. One painting is a depiction of the Nativity Church and another shows traditional Palestinian buildings in the Bethlehem area. The other two paintings portray two stories from the Bible; the story of Ruth, and the miracle of Multiplication.
SD: What are your plans for the future, Zaki?
ZB: I want to improve on my technique. I like to bring multiple colors into the paintings with a single stroke of my brush. People like seeing me do that. I take a thick brush and dip it slightly in a range of different colors and then I brush it into the canvas with a light pat. I want to keep practicing this technique; I feel is what makes my paintings unique.
I have many friends who are expecting to see new things from me and that encourages me to keep going.
SD: Well Zaki, I think I speak for everyone when I tell you we look forward to seeing more of your work. Thanks so much for your time and thoughts.
ZB: My pleasure.
Amira is the Communications Coordinator of Bethlehem Bible College. She is a committed Palestinian Christian who has a passion for writing about the intersection of faith and seeking justice for her fellow countrymen. To read more of her writings sign up for Bethlehem Bible College’s monthly newsletter.