‘Instead of a scream’: the Palestinian artist who does a Gaza drawing every day

‘Instead of a scream’: the Palestinian artist who does a Gaza drawing every day
By: Culture Posted On: May 14, 2024 View: 19

For years, I have been used to drawing daily and sharing my drawings on social media with friends. I have published thousands of series of drawings, each with its own title and description. I enjoyed doing that. I have made sure that I kept to this daily routine, despite the difficulty of my circumstances and despite losing my private office, my house, my drawing studio, and all my books and tools due to the machinery of war.

Drawing and posting online daily became the only way to reassure my friends, after all communication and social media were cut but later partly restored. My drawings, in which I document the war with all its cruel scenes, have become the message through which I inform friends: “I am still alive.”

It was not easy to continue to draw in the shades of war and genocide, the atmosphere which my city is now being subject to; obtaining my tools was not an easy matter either. I started drawing after I obtained a pencil and some paper and, later on, obtained some black ink pens.

My lines got sharper and more rigorous with every scene I drew, the black areas consuming the surface of the white paper. The tragedy, in all its detail, was reflected on this paper. The drawings were in the place of a scream and were a call out from the middle of the war demanding a stop to the killing … and that the world notice what is happening in Gaza and its confined universe.

‘We wait for the start of a new day after a long night filled with aircraft, rockets and death’ … the sketches on show in Venice.

Daily scenes and events pass by us, such as killings, demolitions, uprooting, destruction, starvation, deportation, fear, worry and sadness; these are the scenes that I express without the need to call on my imagination. The scenes we are living moment to moment became the reality that occupies the white space on my paper.

I noted in my diary the stories of destruction, loss, death, weakness, displacement, fear, pain, patience, resilience and breaking. And I expressed the story through my work, separate from official propaganda. The story is of a war that has a massive ability to harm and that defeats distance and geography at the speed of sound, bringing death to more people in less time.

The reality that I lived prior to 7 October has changed. I no longer have a safe house that shelters me and my small family. The rockets have fallen on my drawing studio (my little world) and destroyed it, and the planes have wiped out all the future plans I had for my children. The steel bird killed my small cat Sarah, and chewed her soft meat, before the cat could pass on her seven souls to my children.

The university at which I work as a lecturer has disappeared and lies in ashes. The war machine has distorted the features of my small city and the occupation has destroyed all the beautiful things in it; so the things that are fixed in my memory now lie distorted under the rubble.

In the blink of an eye I became a displaced person in cities that do not know me. I have moved 10 times in search of safety for me and my children, far from the heart of Gaza. I now live in the south of Rafah, in a small house with 25 other people.

The space has become diminshed without clean water for drinking and showering, without electricity, fuel or gas for cooking. Like other people, I spend most of my day meeting daily household needs, in the shadow of soaring inflation and scarce goods. But this isn’t all, you have to go in search of survival and safety (which is lacking) for you and your family, and wait for the start of a new day after the end of a long night in Gaza filled with aircraft, rockets and death.

The war has swallowed whole my small dreams, and everything that surrounds us now is covered in blackness. The small heart is no longer able to bear it. For me, sadness is a decision postponed until after the war; I decided to carry on drawing despite the difficulty of the circumstances and kept for myself some time at night after a long day. Drawing has become the special way to help me overcome death for a bit. Drawing, for me, is the way to break the blockade and in this way cancel and challenge the borders and the barriers placed by the occupation.

It is also the only way to announce: “I am still alive.”

Images by Maisara Baroud form part of Foreigners in Their Homeland, an exhibition of work by Palestinian artists, organised by Palestine Museum US, at the European Cultural Centre, Palazzo Mora, Venice, until 24 November. His Instagram is @maisarart.

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