GAZA (XINHUA) – Artists in Gaza, who have lived for years in tension, violence, and hardship under the Israeli blockade, have called attention worldwide to the bleak reality unnoticed by the global audience.
Sharif Sarhan, 47, who spent 10 years doing art, saw drawing, photography, and sculpture as the best tools for him to reflect the reality in the impoverished but densely populated Palestinian enclave.
“With the ongoing political and economic instability in Gaza, it was not easy to make a breakthrough in the fight against the isolation that was forced on us either internally or globally,” Sarhan said.
He was speaking of the longstanding Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza that has led to escalating Israeli-Palestinian tensions and deepened economic hardship in Gaza.
The restrictions also reinforce the stereotypical media portrayals of Gaza as a place full of violent “attackers”, he said, adding he tries to reflect such reality through art to offer an alternative vision to the Arab and global audience.
Life is grey in Gaza as most businesses, plans and dreams are not completed because of the restrictions on the territory, but Gazans long for a peaceful life as much as all people around the world do, according to the artist.
Last week, Sarhan held a five-day exhibition at the French Cultural Centre in Gaza under the title of Irregular Verb, displaying dozens of his artworks to the public.
“This art event is one among dozens implemented by Sarhan who did incredible efforts to change the stereotype image of Gaza as a conflict zone,” the director of the French centre, Francois Tiger, told Xinhua.
The Gaza-based artist also took part in solo and group exhibitions in Britain, the United States, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as well as in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, Israel has enforced a strict blockade on the territory and against the organisation which is hostile to the country, triggering armed retaliation from Palestinian militants with high casualties.
The internal division between Fatah, which runs the West Bank, and Gaza-ruling Hamas made the situation worse in Gaza, which is already suffering from poverty, unemployment and insecurity.
Gaza-based artist Assaf al-Kharti who follows Sarhan’s footsteps in artistic ideas, makes sculptures with recycled scrap to embody the problems experienced by the locals.
“I have started to produce my artworks to reflect the reality of our problems in Gaza, such as travel restrictions, education problems, and the unemployment among youth, to the world,” the 29-year-old artist told Xinhua.
“All of us (Gazans) need to recycle our lives, hopes and dreams away from wars and the imposed blockade so that they can be properly rehabilitated to live in a better way,” he noted.
His pieces themed on life in Gaza were presented in many local exhibitions, and he was able to remotely attend overseas events by sending artworks to the venues for display.