Art for more than the eyes

artist creating a painting
artist creating a painting
Photos by Ahmed Al-Sammak

With clear passion and love in her eyes, Palestinian artist Timaa Hassan holds a thin brush in her right hand. She is finishing the last part of a sculpted painting of two Palestinian fishermen taking the day’s catch out of their net. Timaa made this piece for her blind friends and followers. They are her biggest source of inspiration.

Timaa graduated with a degree in fine arts from Al-Aqsa University in Gaza in 2021. While studying, she worked with many painting mediums such as watercolor and charcoal. Later, she began working in relief sculpture. “I found my passion in relief sculpture,” she told We Are Not Numbers. “In this art, besides their symbolism, they are touchable.”

Timaa focused on this specialty after an emotional incident in 2020. While visiting an art gallery in Gaza, a blind woman and her mother were discussing the ideas of the paintings in the gallery. When they stood in front of Timaa’s painting, the blind woman’s mother put her daughter’s hand on the painting and the daughter started appreciating what the painting was about. “That moment I was over the moon, and it triggered an idea in my mind to target the blind in my art,” said Timaa. “I communicated with another blind woman and told her about my desire to target them. So she came to my home, and I showed her my paintings and some small sculptures. Happiness was evident in her eyes. She told me that she was very happy because I thought of the blind. Her words lifted me up.”

Painting of Gaza fishermenSince then, Timaa has frequently shown her blind friends her paintings to get their opinions. Last year, the Gaza-based Association of Visually Impaired Graduates invited Timaa to showcase her artwork to five blind women, who gave Timaa feedback and suggested improvements. She admitted, “They also told me that they deeply wished I would sculpture the sea and fishermen selling fishes and some scenes that are not traditionally in the Gaza Strip such as snowy weather. Because Gaza is a besieged and coastal city, I wanted to fulfill their wishes. I have finished seven paintings that tell the story of Gaza.”

Timaa has contributed her artwork to 10 local galleries, and a gallery in Bethlehem in the West Bank also has displayed one of her paintings. However, she has been unable to exhibit internationally. “What oppresses me is that we really cannot send our paintings to galleries abroad, and we cannot take part in galleries outside of Gaza because of the Israeli occupation. I also suffer from the lack of art materials.”

Nonetheless, Timaa hopes to make a difference beyond the borders of Gaza. In fact, she has exchanged ideas with a school director in Bahrain, who connected with her via Instagram to ask her opinion on how to develop an art curriculum for the blind in that country.

Timaa believes that those who are disabled have the same abilities as others do. She said, “We exist to help and serve each other. For example, I help my blind friend with my art, and they help me to develop my English.”

Mai Alkhaib, who is blind, told WANN, “Timaa’s idea is rare in Gaza and abroad. Despite the lack of art materials in Gaza, Timaa made every visible thing touchable.  I knew some figures in her paintings with my own touch, which made Timaa really amazed. My message to artists is take an interest [in those who are disabled] into consideration when you make art .”

painting of bilndfolded couple inside picture frameGhada Zomlot, who is also blind, told WANN, “Artists depend on colors in their paintings which usually are not touchable. Timaa makes what we miss. I wish we had an art gallery that targets the blind in Gaza.”

The artist shared that a big responsibility comes with targeting the visually impaired audience. It is a great challenge because it requires paying attention to every single detail. Timaa’s pieces have highlighted such topics such as the Palestinian traditional dress, the dabka (a traditional Palestinian dance) and daily life in Palestine. She said, “Personally speaking, our heritage is renewable. Heritage does not mean it is related to the past. We add things to our heritage every day.Several steps are involved in making a sculpted painting. First, the design requires multiple trial and errors. Second, the three-dimensional sculptural layers are added. Third, materials may be added to a painting to enhance the tactile experience — for example, some real sand may be layered onto the section of the painting that represents a sandy beach. The final step is the coloring process.

Timaa relies on her art as a source of income; the average price for her paintings is $500. Thus far, she has sold 10 paintings.

Each painting takes nearly an average of a month to complete—some longer – and tedium is never an issue. Timaa’s dream is to complete a master’s degree in art. Currently, there are no postgraduate studies available in this field in the Gaza Strip. “I hope to develop myself in this art and to participate in international galleries to target the blind all over the world,” she said.







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