The last fierce wars on the Gaza Strip not only left scars on structural facilities; the beauty and antiquity of its streets and neighborhoods and camps were defaced, nevertheless.
Al-Shati Refugee camp, the third largest in Palestine with a population of more than 87,000 Palestinians, is one which cramped alleyways witnessed a lot of ravage, where tens of households and Al-Sousi Mosque were destroyed.
The camp’s mention in the news resonated during the 2014 war when, on July 28, 13, including 11 children were killed by a strike on a local playground. The story of the three boys of Bakr family, who were playing football on the beach when hit by Israeli navy, could also be remembered as a witness to heinous acts committed in the last aggression.
The camp is one of many that were set up following the Nakba (Israeli Independence) in 1948 when more than 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and thousands killed. Since then, as in other camps in the territories and diaspora, it has been through multifaceted problems including a staggering increase in population density, contamination of 90% of drinking-water, and power cuts of up to 18 hours a day, to name a few.
Recently, 30 illustrators challenged the Israeli ruining schemes targeting the Palestinian civic scene and resilience of the struggling refugees, setting off an initiative to brighten up the streets and alleyways of the camp.
Labeled as “Gaza More Beautiful”, the young artists wanted to light up the gloomy ageing exterior walls of the houses with colorful paints and creative drawings, and decorate them with wooden and rubbery tires and inscriptions, hopeful of bring some joy to the dwellers.
The one-month’s work of the artists, sponsored by the Palestinian PADICO Holding company, would ornament the walls of 90 houses spanning two square kilometers of the al-Shati refugee camp.
Osama Abu Hamra, one of the participants, commenting on his artwork, said: “The plant motifs tell about hope and life; this is taken up in an attempt to revive a spirit of life”, noting that “the colors used in coloring were applied to all walls and selected in coordination with the other artists in the initiative, while the plant forms differed as per the taste of the artist himself.”
Abu Hamra, in one of his paintings, drew a big rose with a cactus blooming out of it, in a symbolic expression of the steadfast Palestinian. “This reflects the resilience on the one hand, and hope of return and liberation on the other hand,»
Gaza has been an open page for the creative crafts of artists. Graffiti tradition, for instance, had led to murals becoming part of the Gaza’s cultural landscape. Artist Sersawi, quoted by Al-Monitor, says that “The mid-1990s saw the spread of a phenomenon whereby temporary murals would be painted to commemorate national or international occasions under the supervision of civic organizations. These included murals 10 meters in size commemorating Nakba Day or even Women’s Day, their beauty making them ideal to convey certain messages.”
Photos by Majdi Fathi