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Exhibition: Gaza on Gaza

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Exhibi gazaDrawings imagining the dreams and aspirations of the children who died.

Gaza on Gaza is an exhibition of work by Palestinian artists created in response to witnessing the lives devastated by the last year’s conflict.

During the military offensive 1,500 Palestinian civilians were killed and over 500,000 were displaced from their homes.

And 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 over the summer of 2014.

Gaza on Gaza features Majdal Nateel’s installation, ‘If I Wasn’t There’, which was inspired by her experiences volunteering with the UN and working with children in their shelters during last year’s conflict.

The work consists of 400 drawings imagining the dreams and aspirations of the children who died.

Each piece is made from fragments of the paper bags used to deliver the limited supplies of cement to families whose homes were bombed.

Restrictions on the entry of cement and other materials means that many of the children who survived the conflict are still without homes.

“I am dedicating my artistic tools to talk on behalf of the children who lost their voices simply because they were here, or there…,” Majdal Nateel explained.

“’If I Wasn’t There’ is about this: if I hadn’t been here, then maybe my mother would now be brushing my hair or making my favorite food, maybe my clothes size would have changed and maybe I wouldn’t be just a statistic broadcast on the news.”

‘Through Young Eyes’ is a series of drawings by Palestinian teenagers who lived through last year’s conflict and participated in a project run by Christian Aid partner Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA), an organisation which provides therapeutic activities for children and young people.

Some of the teenagers have drawn their own experiences and others depict the stories they heard on the news and from their communities.

“CFTA has really helped me by giving me pencils and paints to draw my suffering. I feel when I draw that something in my heart is released,” Lama Shasah, 16, said.

“My paintings express the rights of Palestinian children to live in an environment that is safe, without conflict and violence.

“Palestinian children still stand despite the difficulties and destruction surrounding them.”

One year since the war, children in Gaza face an uncertain future.

Not one of the 19,000 homes that were destroyed have been rebuilt. More than 20 schools and kindergartens still lie in ruins.

Eight years of Israeli blockade of Gaza has devastated the economy, leaving more than 60 per cent of young people unemployed – the highest rate in the world.

The war and the blockade continues to affect an entire generation of children in Gaza, with around 300,000 young people left traumatised and in need of psychosocial care.

The drawings are accompanied by a series of images of the devastation by award-winning photographer Heidi Levine, and a series of moving image and photographic works from Palestinian artists including The Last Prayer, by self-taught 22 year-old Gaza Strip-based Palestinian conceptual and fine art photographer, Mahmoud J Alkurd.

Gaza on Gaza is curated by the Gaze on Gaza campaign, Christian Aid and the Palestinian Arts Festival in partnership with P21 Gallery.

Throughout the exhibition there will be a programme of talks, events and film screenings exploring the role of art in Palestine’s present and future.

These include a screening of the first ever feature filmed in the Gaza Strip, ‘The Tale of the Three Lost Jewels‘ by Michel Khleifi, and a discussion on theatre in Palestine led by Zoe Lafferty and Jonathan Chadwick.

The exhibition, which opens on 7 August, will also feature creations drawn by Palestinian teenagers as part of a therapeutic project, as well as images by Mahmoud Alkord, Nidaa Badwan and Ahmed Salama, and films by Dina Nasar, Yousef Nateel and Mohamed Jabaly.

Majdal Nateel, who has not been able to get a permit to leave Gaza and attend the show, told the Independent: “My project tries to say where these children would be now if they had not been killed.”

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