The project of the Gaza’s team born with the aim of showing “another Strip”, different from the one depicted by mainstream media focused just on tragedy and pain
by Giovanni Vigna
Mantova, 7th of August 2017, Nena News – Often when traditional media speak about Gaza, the small enclave overlooking the Mediterranean sea becomes a synonym of death, bombs and destruction. A cliché, a narration that “Shababek” collective artists refuse.
The group, founded in 2003 by Basel El Maqousi, Shareef Sarhan and Majed Shala, firmly believes in the possibility that language of art reveals what lies behind the superficial look of information outlets, spreading a negative and falsified image of the Strip. Certainly, this short spit of land, where about two million people live, looks like an open-air prison. But Gaza – artists state – is a lively place, with people who love peace, have the hope for a better future and search for beauty in all things.
How could the activity of “Shababek” collective be described? “The space around us is limited, the ideas in us are unlimited – El Maqousi answers – we came together to think about how we could break out from here and reach the outside; and how we could open small windows and breathe fresh air. In this restricted and cramped space (Gaza) we express ourselves in a cultural-bound artistic language, when we talk to others. A language that is part of us. Gaza is rich in details, that we try to illustrate using new, descriptive colours”.
“Shababek” band – on the website http://www.artwfg.ps/ it is possible to find the biographies and some artworks – is formed by young artists deeply believing in collective co-operation and trying to develop together the creative aspects in the art movement.
They are looking at the most recent contemporary art, that serves them to fully express their artistic abilities and put them into form. “Our ideas and reflections – El Maqousi says – come to a synthesis, that is brought to public attention by regularly holding meetings, exhibitions and workshops, in which both local and international artists participate. Each of them has taken part in numerous international events in support of their culture, their art concept, and their effort to interplay”.
The language of art can show what happens in Gaza. The founders of “Shababek” group are confident that, thanks to their artistic tools, is easier and more effective to communicate with people from different cultures, languages and backgrounds.
In 2009 “Shababek” received a fund for a project from the Palestinian Ministry of Culture, that allowed to establish the first digital studio in Gaza along with an exhibition hall. The place was opened for all young artists. So the founders of the band launched Windows from Gaza project, aiming at being the window of the Palestinian artists opened to the world, trying to show everybody the other side of Gaza, not the one described by mainstream media which looks like pain and tragedies only, but Gaza the very living place and living people.
“Windows from Gaza is also a place and a forum for us to develop our art, to learn and to exchange experience”, El Maqousi declares. An exhibition with the Palestinian artists’ artworks was held in June in Naples, in cooperation with Fotografi senza Frontiere Association and the Cultural Exchange Italian Center Vik in Gaza.
El Maqousi is looking for beauty in painting, photography and video art: “I am trying to see the life beyond the media, beyond what others can see, sharing it again with them from my point of view using any artistic tools”. Which emotions wakes the word Gaza up? “My homeland is Palestine, Gaza is part of it, I love life, I look for peace, and I feel proud to hear the name of my country everywhere”.
El Maqousi and other “Shababek” artists’ paintings are full of vivid and bright colours. The choice, not random, is connected with a view of the world that bring people to appreciate what life offers despite everything. “Love life, appreciate death, but make beauty out of both of them – El Maqousi explains – this is the lesson I learned from my teacher, the Syrian/German professor Marwan Qassab Bashi, whom I met with in Amman (Jordan) in 2000, 2001 and 2003 thanks to several contemporary art workshops. My goal was always and will always be value the life, be happy and give positive messages”.
A philosophy of life that allows El Maqousi to fight the Israeli occupation: “It’s the only way I will continue resisting injustice”. Nena News
Italian version here