‘Gaza on Gaza’ is an exhibition of work by Palestinian artists in response to devastation from the conflict in the summer of 2014. During the military offensive, 1,500 Palestinian civilians were killed with more than a half-million people displaced from their homes. The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 children in Gaza require some form of mental health support to cope with the events they witnessed or experienced that summer; for many of these children, some only 9 years old, it was the third war-time experience of their young lives.
Gaza’s children attempt to heal through art and play
In the first live event of the online Palestinian Arts Festival [PAF], an exhibition of young Palestinian artists, photographers, and film-makers opens at P21 Gallery, London in August 2015. Palestinian Arts Festival was started on Facebook and other social media one year ago, aiming through creativity and non-violence, to promote human rights and awareness of the extremely challenging circumstances that Palestinians experience daily – conditions which steadily worsen following the third devastation of Gaza within the last decade.
“Gaza on Gaza” features artwork from a number of young artists in Gaza, with short films, photography, and drawings, some of which are the outcome of therapy in the form of art or play to aid healing from mental and physical trauma of war.
Arranged like film stills, nine drawings by Palestinian teens, labeled “Through Young Eyes” use black-and-white pencil to “tell their own stories or illustrate the stories of younger children they met in UN shelters during the [51-day] onslaught” of last summer. These sombre and dramatic images are displayed in the same room as a group of short films looped on a monitor. On the opposite wall is the work of several artists/photographers from this Mediterranean enclave. While they are captivating, a few scrapbook-sized photographs and nine larger drawings barely begin to elucidate the experience of being trapped under mortar fire and bombshells in an area only a few miles square, the most densely populated place on Earth.
In the upstairs gallery is an installation that opens a little more understanding, through the eyes of children, to what they have been through numerous times since 2006. “If I wasn’t there” by Majdal Nateel, a Gazan mother of two young children, is a work comprised of 400 small drawings on scraps of brown paper bags that once contained cement or other building supplies delivered so far to only a few families whose homes were destroyed in the conflict. (There are 10s of thousands more people still waiting for these essential supplies, living in the open air under the rubble of their former homes.)
Many of the tiny, charming drawings made me smile…until I realised each one represents a dream or aspiration of one child who died during the 51-day operation. A boy riding a horse. A girl blow-drying her hair. A girl wearing a fabulous hat made entirely of pink flowers. A child runs, rides a bike, holds an umbrella and smiles, has tea, flies to freedom as if on the back of a sparrow… all things 400 children of Gaza will never do.
While an ardent reminder of those children who perished last summer, this exhibition is more about those children and their families who remain in Gaza, who are very much alive, all still able to dream, and through a humble online community forum called Palestinian Arts Festival, seek to “portray a cultural history of Palestine and its diaspora as it was in the past, how it is today and forward as we predict a peaceful future.”
A series of talks, events, and films is scheduled to accompany the “Gaza on Gaza’ exhibition, including a screening of the award-winning documentary, “The Wanted 18” directed by Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan.
Highly recommended, especially for those interested in Palestinian culture (and pop in for a tasty snack or drink in the cafe inside the gallery – they might even make “qahweh araby” if you don’t see it on the menu 😉 ).
Participating artists: The exhibition will feature creations by Palestinian teenagers drawn as part of a therapeutic project, as well as images by Majdal Nateel, Mahmoud Alkord, Nidaa Badwan and Ahmed Salama. It will also include films by Dina Nasar, Yousef Nateel and Mohamed Jabaly.
More links and information
- Visit “Gaza on Gaza” at P21 Gallery, London – from P21 Gallery website: “P21 gallery incorporates…multimedia exhibition spaces on two levels with supporting facilities for public functions in addition to workshops for training and education. In addition, the P21 Gallery hosts a reference library, meeting rooms, a lecture hall as well as a specialised café.”
- Read about the Palestinian Arts Festival in London, August 2015
- “Palestinian artist’s work to go on display in London after Channel 4’s Jon Snow smuggles it out of Gaza” by Nick Clark and Sam Masters for The Independent – 31 July 2015 – Majdal Nateel, one of the artists whose work is on display in London, says “I want to have my art shown, not just for me, but for other people here in Gaza. Some people offer to exhibit my paintings out of sympathy. I want to be known as a good enough to be shown outside because I am good enough. The art movement is dramatic here. There are around 40 artists like me.”
Private View: Thursday 6 August 2015, 6:30 – 9:00pm
Opening hours, 7 – 22 August 2015:
Tuesday – Friday 12:00 – 6:00 pm
Saturday 12:00 -4:00 pm