When Noam Chomsky first visited the Gaza Strip in 2012, it did not take him long to realize the extent of the brutality of the Israeli occupation and control, and their effects on Palestinian life. “[I]t hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison…” Chomsky wrote in an article. This “open-air prison” is home to more than 1.8 million people, a distinguished people, unified by culture, nationality and tradition, yet diverse and distinct.
One such story is of Dina Mattar, a Palestinian artist from Al Bureij refugee camp. Mattar graduated from Al-Aqsa University in Gaza in 2007 with a degree in fine arts and education. Since then, she has participated in numerous exhibitions in Palestine and elsewhere.
I asked Dina if she has painted about last summer's Israeli assault on Gaza and if so, whether she would share some with us.
“Although I painted a lot about (last summer's) assault, I want to share paintings that don't focus on war and violence,” she responded. “This time, I want to show the world that we are a people who love life; a people with a culture, traditions and hope.”
And indeed, while the Gaza Strip is often associated with war, death and suffering, its people still maintain a colorful and vibrant life behind the bars of their prison.
"We are a people who enjoy an affectionate enviornoment: parents and children connected with love. Despite the difficult circumstances imposed upon us, we can still create happines and joy around us,” Dina says.
Dina uses art as a method of resistance; she not only resists the circumstances of Israeli occupation, but also the stereotypes created by a machine built to oppress. “I always try to show a different image about our people, who were created to live, defend themselves and resist in order to live a safe and dignified life.”
Dina is a member of the Eltiqa artists collective in Gaza City