Palestinian reality is debated across the globe. However, often by international academics, journalists and politicians. The Danish House in Palestine has invited a number of Palestinians representing different outlooks and areas of expertise to share their perspectives.
Malak Mattar, 18, is an artist from Gaza. She had her first art exhibition in Gaza at the age of 15. Recently she moved to Istanbul, Turkey, as she received a scholarship from Istanbul Aydin University due to the highest high school score in Gaza and the second highest in Palestine.
When did you start painting?
“I started painting in 2014, during the war. I had some pieces of paper and some watercolors – it was a gift from my school actually – so I started sketching. You need to escape from your fears, you need to escape from your worries. I did a small drawing and posted it on social media, and I got many motivating comments. That’s why I continued.
After the war, after I survived, I went to a store and got new materials, and I started painting and looking more on art. My uncle is an artist, he has a PhD in art, so he was a big factor in my progress. After that, people start noticing my artwork, and I got to exhibit my artwork internationally in many exhibitions in the UK, India, Spain, the US and Latin America. Unfortunately, I had to send my art there because it was impossible for me to go outside Gaza with short notice.”
What do you hope people will see when they look at your art?
“I want them to see the true face of Gaza – in all its aspects, the nice aspects and the suffering aspects. What people see in the media are mostly the dark sides of Gaza – the war, the siege and the occupation. I want to show that in Gaza there is a life. I noticed that really clearly when I got out of Gaza. When I was in Gaza I thought it was all a curse – there is not electricity, no water, no traveling – but when I got out of Gaza I understood clearly that Gaza is wonderful with its people, the sea and the food. It has many amazing things.”
What does painting mean to you?
“It is a home. I had a lot of struggles with being lonely and depressed when I was in Gaza, so painting was the only way to express what I felt toward things, even more than I could express with words. Painting is self-expression. For me, it is everything.
My paintings are like a diary. Whenever I have something in my life I go and paint it, so my paintings have a story behind them. Most of my paintings have themes, and I post about these themes on Facebook. The paintings are mostly simple portraits because I mainly draw from my imagination, and sometimes when I get inspired from people, I paint them.”
What are you trying to accomplish trough your paintings?
“I try to have my own style in paintings, which can be difficult in such a young age because in that age you are trying to build your personality, your thoughts and your attitudes. Another thing is that I’m going to study International Relations and things related to politics, so I want to be an ambassador in my arts. I want people to look at my arts to get to know Gaza and Palestine more.”
What are the best things about Gaza?
“The best thing for me is that it’s my homeland. I also realized that when I traveled. My family is there, and living with them is really peaceful and really embracing I missed this when I left Gaza. Homeland is where you have your family with you. Also what I miss about Gaza is the port. It has a very special place in my heart because whenever I felt upset or depressed I went there. It is a very simple place, and for me it was the best. Another good thing about Gaza is food. There are many delicious and traditional kinds of food.”
What are the most challenging things about Gaza?
“I really feel that there is little hope in Gaza. What is really hard is that in Gaza you find many qualified people, energetic people who are really working to get their dreams to come true, so you feel really sad because they can’t get the right opportunities for them to show their potential. You also look at kids and feel that they need to have a proper future like all kids in the world should have. So you feel that Gaza needs support and help, even support from countries outside.
I think that Gaza without a siege and with electricity 24 hours a day, like normal people have, would be all good. However, the three wars, the many confrontations and the many political issues have really made people sick. I think people need therapy for what they have witnessed. In Gaza it is impossible to find a person who didn’t lose a family member or a friend. People are really tired inside.”
See Malak Mattar’s art at www.malak.ps