Against a Canvas of Despair, Gaza’s Artists Trace Their Struggle

The incessant buzzing of an Israeli drone fills the room.

On one large wall, scenes of death and desperate rescues by hand through twisted metal and crushed rock play out on a video loop. A large mound of rubble — metal rods, bricks and broken plaster — extends nearly the length of the exhibition hall.

Along blue walls meant to evoke Gaza’s sky and sea hang paintings that mostly evoke life before Israel’s intense bombardment and invasion: Palestinian still lifes, native cactuses, music, cats and cows, and even one Catwoman.

The work of more than 100 Gazan artists lines the walls of this exhibition, which is showing at the Palestinian Museum in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, a collection of protest that is as much about the art that is not there, lost in the war that rages in Gaza, as about the art that is on display. Most of the artists are trapped in the enclave, struggling to survive, much less to create.

“We resist with our colors and our canvases in order to relay our message to the world,” said Basel El Maqosui, an artist displaced from his home in northern Gaza whose work is featured.

“They destroyed all our civilization and destroyed our modern and ancient artifacts,” he said in an interview. “Each of which carries a memory full of love and joy and another memory full of sadness and tears.”

High on the wall in the hall hangs his painting of a Palestinian woman, her head, face and shoulders rimmed by layers of colorful scarves — red, yellow and blue.

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