“We All Live in Gaza” art exhibit
On display March 18-29, 2019
FedEx Global Education Center, UNC-Chapel Hill

Featuring artwork by four Gazan artists, this collaborative exhibition aims to break down myths about Gazan people, increase awareness of the living conditions in Gaza, and bring creative expression from the Gaza Strip to an international audience.

The artists:

Artist: Malak Mattar 

Malak Mattar is a Palestinian woman from Gaza. While still a teenager, she lived through three major attacks on her home. She began painting during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict when she was surrounded by violence in Gaza City. Like many other children, she found herself bored and anxious, since it was not safe to go outside. So Mattar started painting to “discharge all of my negative energy,” she explains. Mattar had been given some inexpensive paper and water colors at her school, and it was all she had on hand at the time of the assault. Soon, she discovered a budding talent for art and loved how colors provided for self-expression. She has been painting ever since, although now with acrylics on canvas.

Artist: Basel Maqusi

Born in Gaza City in 1971, Basel Maqusi is a painter, photographer, and video artist. He has completed artist training around the world, including participation in the Darat al Funun Summer Academy hosted by The Khalid Shoman Foundation in Jordan (2003), as well as a one-month artist residency in Bangalore, India. Maqusi has gained international recognition for his work and has been awarded the Charles Asprey Award for Palestinian artists, the bronze prize for the best photo from the Union of Arab Photographers (Germany), and was nominated for the A. M. Qattan Foundation’s Artist of the Year Award. Maqusi has participated in several local and international solo and group exhibitions, though his participation in international art workshops has been limited due to restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip. He currently teaches art at the Jabalya Rehabilitation Society for deaf children.

Artist: Laila Kassab

Written by artist, translated from Arabic.

At home, as experienced in the streets or seen on television, a great number of issues exist that require a bigger heart to accommodate all this grief. Many have not fulfilled their dreams because they died in the war in Gaza. I am a calm and measured woman. But when my entire body erupts over something, my heart beats with fervor, I mix my colors with my senses; and so I give the white of my canvas the meaning of life. I draw faces that carry the daily worries, stories of people pained by their longing, dreams under the rubble, and dreams of mud, light, and dust. I cannot divulge all secrets in one painting! A painting might only carry one secret. When you discover it, you feel calm, despite your unconscious internal eruption. The beauty of it is that there you will find countless contradictions.

Artist: Maysa Yousef

Since her childhood, Maysa Yousef, currently in her early thirties, has been drawn to art in all   forms, devouring images in magazines and newspapers and imagining herself as a great artist. However, art is not a pursuit that can easily earn you a living in Gaza, and the required supplies are expensive; thus, she found little support for her dream as a child. Yousef initially received secretarial training and then went on to study nursing. In 2005, Yousef was working as a nurse for the military medical service. The director general of the service knew of her love for drawing.  As a reward for her hard work, he paid for her to take time off to study with his cousin, a well-known local artist named Bashir Sinwar. “I could not believe the opportunity he gave me,” she recalls. Yousef loved the experience so much that while she continued working, she also began studying art at AI-Azhar University, home to the only fine arts program in Gaza. Today, she lives in Deir aI-Balah in central Gaza with her husband and two young children. “My dream now is to use my art to help heal the wounds of my people, communicating from besieged Gaza to the world through my paintings.” Yousef primarily works on canvas, creating her images using a collage technique, incorporating everything from magazine pictures to twine. Many of her works focus on issues concerning women in Gaza.