Tattoos for Gaza: 100+ tattoo artists around the world will raise funds for Palestinians this weekend

Left: a black and white photo showing an ornate tattoo on a woman's back, as she wears a keffiyeh over her head. Right: A series of flash tattoo sheets by different artists

Editor's note: This fundraiser has successfully raised more than $70,000. Learn more about this campaign’s success — and find out about future events.

Randa Jarrar and Ariana Bazlamit are Palestinian American activists living in the diaspora of their homeland.

Over the past few months, the two have been attending local organizing events in Los Angeles, brainstorming ways to help their people as violence, starvation, and displacement wage on. 

“Randa had brought up the idea for a tattoo fundraiser,” Bazlamit told Good Good Good. “I had worked in the tattoo industry for years as a piercer, and the more I thought about it, the more tangible the idea felt.”

Photo courtesy of Ariana Bazlamit

So, they started reaching out to their tattoo artist friends, and the Hibr project was born. Now, over 170 tattoo artists across the globe will be offering tattoos in support of Palestinians this weekend.

“Hibr” is an Arabic word meaning “ink.” Jarrar and Bazlamit wanted their culture to shine through the project and acknowledged the double meaning of ink as a tool for writers and activists who write resistance poems, memoirs, and more.

“It was important to us to include our Palestinian heritage in our name,” Bazlamit said. “Our only focus is our people, and we want that to be present in every facet of our project.”

But the beauty of Hibr is also in its widespread support from artists of all nationalities.

Independent artists from various international cities have created flash sheets filled with designs related to Palestinian culture or social justice. The profits made from these designs will be sent to Jarrar and Bazlamit, who said they will redistribute funds to folks on the ground in Gaza.

A flash sheet of Palestinian tattoos by Angela Smyth
A flash sheet of tattoos by Angela Smyth of Loveyland Studio

The first organization they said they will be supporting is Ele Elna Elak, a student-led organization that was created in 2018 with the help of Gazan journalist Bisan Owda

Ele Elna Elak comes from an Arabic phrase meaning “what we own, you own.” The group has provided food and other basic necessities in the winter to families in need, and with the current escalated need in occupied Gaza, the group is working to help their community obtain vegetables, flour, and other necessary food supplies. 

On a GoFundMe page, Ele Elna Elak said that its volunteers also raise funds to help families buy other staples like water, firewood, medicine, and clothes — all while trying to survive alongside their own families.

Bazlamit also said that funds from the Hibr project will be donated to mutual aid campaigns that support Gazans with aid or by paying evacuation fees. To expedite the process of fleeing the area, many families have created mutual aid funds or GoFundMe pages, which allow them to access donated funds more quickly than through the help of a registered nonprofit or NGO.

This does mean that traditional models of accountability found in registered nonprofits are not present in fundraising projects like Hibr. That being said, Bazlamit said that she and Jarrar will document every dollar raised and donated on their Instagram account to ensure transparency.

“It’s incredibly important to us that we instill confidence in our tattooers and clients alike. We have nothing to hide, so we plan to hide nothing,” Bazlamit said. “We are happy to share the receipts with the public, in hopes that we’re able to garner even more support for our people.”

Palestinian Tatreez tattoos on a person's upper back
Photo courtesy of Randa Jarrar

The choice to donate to on-the-ground Palestinians comes after months of aid struggling to reach those who need it most.

“This was our number one concern with this fundraiser; actually getting aid to our people,” Bazlamit said. “The world has watched millions of dollars worth of life-saving aid held hostage at the border by the occupation for months.”

Using their existing connections in the U.S. and abroad — Jarrar just returned from an aid trip to Cairo — the pair is eager to leverage the support of the tattoo community to provide some support.

“Our only hope is that we can offer some sort of relief to our people right now, so we aim to enable those who want to help, the ability to help,” Bazlamit said.

And it’s abundantly clear: People want to help.

A woman with short, dark curly hair stands outside of a tattoo studio
Photo courtesy of Dannni Parelman/Instagram

“I wanted to be involved because tattooing is a very effective fundraising tool,” Danni Parelman, an artist at Windhorse Tattoo in Kansas City, Missouri told Good Good Good.

“A lot of people want a ‘reason’ to get a tattoo. Their money going to help those in need is a good incentive for people to take the leap.”

Parelman has booked all of her available tattoo appointments for this coming Saturday.

“It will be a long day, but I’m glad to put in these hours,” she said. “Many have done much more with their time and their bodies. Tattooing is just one way artists can give to this cause.”

Thanks to the overwhelming support, there will be more than just one opportunity for tattoo artists — and supporters — to get involved with the project.

Originally, a single date — May 4 — had been set aside for the international fundraiser, but Jarrar and Bazlamit have now added two other specific dates for participating artists: June 1 and July 16. 

Interested tattoo artists just have to submit a form to be part of the collective, which includes having their work shared on the Hibr Instagram account

From there, they are free to set their own hours, tattoo sizes, and prices — keeping in mind that 100% of profits from these designs are to be donated.

Angela Smyth, a tattoo artist from Loveyland Studio in Calgary, Alberta, said that she learned about the fundraiser from some other local tattoo artists and “wanted to be involved instantly.”

A white woman with long brown hair sits in front of a neon green wall covered in art
Photo courtesy of Angela Smyth

Their designs are similar to others that have been shared by Hibr, including an olive branch, a peace dove, a watermelon, and some Tatreez designs — a traditional Palestinian sewing technique.

“I am focused on making work that shows tenderness to all living beings, as well as things that bring nostalgia,” Smyth told Good Good Good. “I wanted to include not only designs symbolic to Palestinian resistance but ones that represent the joy, pride, and love for their home.”

Smyth said that she hopes to tattoo up to 10 people this coming weekend but plans to keep the designs available to continue raising funds.

“I am forever moved by Palestine and its people, their dedication to the land and to each other, and overall, their hope,” she said. “This flash sheet is a love letter to them, and a wish for a free and happy Palestine.”

Header images courtesy of Ariana Bazlamit/Hbir

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May 2, 2024 11:12 AM
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