Gaza, Palestinian Territories
When we think of Gaza, we tend to associate it with death, destruction, misery, rockets and Hamas. The overall realities of Gaza are indeed rather grim: this tiny coastal strip has grown into an open-air prison consisting of around 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom are refugees. They have zero control over their borders and airspace, and have very limited access to the Mediterranean Sea which so prominently characterizes this tiny strip of Palestine. The siege, which negatively aﬀects all freedom of movement of persons and goods to and from the Gaza Strip, has exacerbated the already dire economic situation as well as severely limited any cultural or academic development. Restrictions of many aspects of social and cultural life imposed by the current Hamas government and the large-scale dependency of most of the population on international aid, leaves Palestinians in Gaza feeling suﬀocated and helpless.
Amid all this despair, however, there are those who keep ﬁnding powerful expressions of their lust for life, their spirit and their strength.
Through hip-hop, break-dancing, parkour, surﬁng and other creative endeavors, they manifest their thirst for freedom and use these activities as a form of resistance. In the absence of adequate equipment or facilities and in the face of growing conservatism in their society, they improvise. Underneath the more known images of violence and despair, these people provide a glimpse of the vibrant sparks of freedom in Gaza.
(Left) Graffiti from Mohannad Al Assar on the roof of his home
(Right) Gaza Parkour Group, Khan Younis
ÇÊ People don't understand graffiti and it costs a lot of money to do. I do graffiti because I love it. I work everywhere in Gaza, on all of the empty walls.ÊÈÊ
Samar Abou Elouf, a young photographer, invited to present her work by the collective Shababik - Windows For Contemporary Art
ÇÊI am very happy to have my first exhibition. The subject- 'A Surgery Room' is a bit strange for the community in Gaza. It was a challenge, but this is a success. At the beginning my family refused to support me because, as a female photographer, it is difficult in Gaza. But when they saw my pictures they started supporting me.ÊÈ
Mohamed Ghraiz, dancer and trainer of the "Camps Breakerz" group (left)
ÇWhen I see the people smiling; I feel also they are free.ÊÈÊ
Maha al-Daya and Ayman Issa, an artist couple, in their studio inside their home in Gaza city
Awatif Jadealy, young film-maker
ÇThere are still many things in Gaza I want to document so I can't just leave. I had some problems with the government before because of my films. I faced it and convinced them. My family was also angry with me and just asked me to stop working as a film director. I refused because that's my life and nobody can stop me.ÊÈ
Training session at the first skate-board park in the Gaza Strip, established in Khan Yunis refugee camp
Recording of a song by Palestinian Unit, a group made of members from different bands.
Ayman Mghames, of PR-The Palestinan Rapperz:
ÇÊWe are not doing hip-hop for commercial reasons. We pay for everything from our own money. We don't have a company to produce our songs. We do it by ourselves. Because hip hop has a pure ideal of resistance, we believe in it because we want a change.ÊÈ
(Left) Mohamed El Susi, hip hop singer and producer with Mohamed Nasrallah. The two are members of "du groupe Revolution Makers."
Ç We don't have money to record and we don't find the respect we seek for our work. We make good songs, but nobody cares. We finally found some support to record three songs, but we want to make an album.È
(Left) Mohamed Abu Nasser, a known film-maker in Gaza under the name Tarzan (he works together with his twin brother Arab). Arab and Tarzan now work in Jordan.
(Centre) Filmmaker Khalil El Muzayen (second right) with other artists in Gallerie caf. The cafe, which is known for being a meeting place for artists, was destroyed.
(Right) Khalil El Muzayen, film director. ÇÊIf you want to make a film about women, you come across many difficulties, you will look all over Gaza to find a girl. There are many obstacles, mainly cultural ones.Ê We need space, we need democracy. I am against censorship. I want to present my ideas and my vision freely.ÊÈ
Hip hop artist Mohamed Antar rehearses his songs in his flat with his young brother Majd, who has also started to rap.
Training session of Camps Breakerz break-dancing crew during a power cut in Nusseirat refugee camp
Basel El Maquosi (left) and Majed Sala (right) in front of the gallery of the Shababik Ð Windows for Contemporary Art collective.
Ayat Al Tos, art teacher, uses recycled materials to create artistic objects.
Ò The idea is not completely successful, the community feels strange about recycling, but I think it's the culture that should be changed."
Mohamed Abusal in his studio inside his home in Al Bureij refugee camp
ÇÊIn Gaza we don't have a special college for contemporary art. We need to exchange. We spend a lot of effort to build ourselves and learn from internet. We look for any international who comes to Gaza who has experience. But we still have hope. We resist the siege. When we have invitations to go abroad, we still try to go. Sometimes we have to spend a lot of money to try, but we know its important to have these opportunities; its our right to have these opportunities. Another side, I present myself as an artist, not as a Palestinian or a refugee.ÊÈ
Raed Issa, artist from Eltiqua collective:
Ç My dream as an artist has changed. Before I dreamt of going outside of Gaza, to be able to become a good artist. I went to Switzerland, to Paris, but today I dream of making art inside Gaza. I dream that the people here will think about art and the artists. I dream about creating an art festival. I wish to be in Gaza and find sculptures in the street like in Europe. My dream now is more about Gaza.ÊÈ
Mohamed Abu Diab, founder of the surf club in Gaza Strip
ÇI like freedom.ÊÈ
Abdallah A. El-Ashi practices beatboxing on his rooftop in Gaza city
ÇÊI am doing Beat Box, but not too many people know Beat Box in Gaza. This talent is new. I create all of the rhythms myself. From the age of 8, I discovered that I could make noises from my voice. I kept practicing. I have not had any show yet, but I am looking forward to have one Ðso the people of Gaza know that there is someone in Gaza who can beat box. Many people I think that it is crazy and not meaningful. Everyday they say: ÇÊwhat the hell are you doing?! This is not a talent. Stop doing it and start studying or working. But everyone has a talent and you need to practice it. Giving up is not in my dictionary.ÊÈ
Dina Matar, member of the Eltiqua collective:
ÇThere was an exhibit in Jordan, but I could not send my paintings. Also, in Gaza materials are hard to find. For a competition for which I wanted to use big formats, I even bought a shroud for the dead to paint on. My dream is to be a famous artist, not only in Gaza but also outside.ÊÈ
Free Running Gaza, a parkour group, on one of the beaches in Gaza city
ÒYou can travel; why can't I?Ó.
A group of arts students gather to practice in the gallery of the Eltiqua collective, which opens its door to young artists.
Salman Nawati and Majdal Nateel, a couple of young artists, in their home full of art pieces.
Young Palestinians skate-board in the streets of Gaza city at night.