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In Gaza, Palestinians turn destruction into artistic protest

Palestinian Art

Painting by Palestinian artist Tayseer Barakat.

As the Israeli war against Gaza unfolded last summer, I wrote about a particular artist who has turned pictures of Israeli bombs falling on Gaza into graphic art of people mourning the destruction below them. Now the destruction caused by the bombs is itself being turned into art. Well-known Palestinian artist Raed Issa has been displaying his damaged paintings that were buried in the remains of his home in front of the rubble of his house. He is part of a group of artists called Eltiqa in Gaza that supports artists in producing art that responds to the realities of daily life in the occupied territory.

In addition, groups of young people are practicing difficult parkour moves among the rubble that remains from last summer. While the artistic exercise routine known as parkour is not new in Palestine, what these youth are doing by practicing it among the rubble of destroyed homes and schools is showing not only incredible resilience, but also constructing a narrative of resistance and endurance.

One of the artistic works I found most striking is Tayseer Barakat’s solo exhibition, “Distant Voices,” which features a series of paintings, some of which contrast modern images of war with ancient art, such as cave paintings.

“I have lived at a distance from family and friends for nearly all my life,” explained Barakat. “Indeed, it has been over 15 years since I visited or have been allowed to visit Gaza. I consider myself internally displaced — removed from my loved ones. As I look around me, I hear the distant voices and cries of Gaza the loudest.”

In a statement to Electronic Intifada, Sliman Mleahat, the curator of the exhibition, explained: “Barakat’s work connects the audience with the recent past and that of their ancestors. The juxtaposition of ancient cave-like paintings of people and animals with modern images of war machinery makes eerie viewing … silhouettes of helicopters and parachutes — are often surrounded by etchings of animals in flight and people scurrying for safety.”