Artist brings beauty to war-rav­aged Gaza

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Dutch artist Mar­jan Teeuwen walks past a col­umn formed from rub­ble to show off her lat­est cre­ation, a bar­ren house in the Gaza Strip where door­less rooms face into bleak, empty space. The ‘Shaath House’ in Khan Yunis in the south of the Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory was largely de­stroyed by an Is­raeli at­tack in the 2014 Gaza war but Teeuwen, 52, spe­cial­izes in turn­ing un­wanted places into works of art.

Work­ing with Pales­tinian engi­neers and artists and the Pales­tinian Red Cres­cent, she is “trans­form­ing a de­mol­ished house into a beau­ti­ful sculp­ture” which will serve briefly as a mu­seum. There is one ma­jor dif­fer­ence how­ever be­tween the Gaza house and her pre­vi­ous works, in the Nether­lands, Rus­sia and South Africa.

Teeuwen usu­ally works in build­ings that are due to be de­stroyed in a few months, turn­ing them into tem­po­rary ex­hibits in what she de­scribes as jux­ta­po­si­tion of the op­pos­ing forces of con­struc­tion and de­struc­tion.

“(But) for the first time I started in a build­ing which was de­stroyed al­ready, which was de­stroyed by war,” she said. Per­haps Teeuwen’s most fa­mous work in the Nether­lands saw her trans­form four empty houses due for de­mo­li­tion into a min­i­mal­ist space with tilted floors and caved-in walls. But in Gaza, they had to start by re­build­ing one of the walls de­stroyed dur­ing the war. The team closed it with rows of bricks and breeze blocks stacked on top of each other but with­out ce­ment, which is sparse in Gaza, leav­ing space for light to come through.

In­side the ex­hi­bi­tion, which took Teeuwen three months, she has used rub­ble and chips of tiles from the war to con­struct a col­umn which snakes up­wards to the ceil­ing. Floors have been twisted up­wards or col­lapsed in­wards, while some in­te­rior walls were re­moved com­pletely. Oth­ers fall di­ag­o­nally or are de­lib­er­ately dis­jointed to cre­ate the feel­ing that“every­thing is on edge,”a writ­ten guide to the work said. More than 120,000 homes were par­tially or fully de­stroyed in the 50-day war in 2014, which led to the deaths of 2,251 Pales­tini­ans and 73 Is­raelis, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions agency for Pales­tini­ans (UNRWA).71,000 have been re­paired, while 12,000 are in the process, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gun­ness said. A fur­ther 57,000 are yet to be re­paired or re­built. Dressed in black, Teeuwen talked to her col­leagues by a fire to keep warm in the win­ter air, de­spite the sun pok­ing through holes in the roof. “My mes­sage to the Pales­tinian peo­ple is visit this place and see the beauty,” she said. Mo­hamed Abu Dagga, Teeuwen’s as­sis­tant, said he hoped the art­work would send a“mes­sage”about Gaza.

“De­spite the block­ade and all the wars the Pales­tinian peo­ple still love art and beauty and life,” he said. Gaza has been un­der an Is­raeli block­ade for a decade, while Egypt has also largely closed its border with the be­lea­guered Pales­tinian en­clave-which is run by Is­lamists Ha­mas. Mo­hammed al-Na­j­jar, 40, from a nearby town, is still wait­ing for war-dam­aged his home to be re­built. “I hope I find help to build a home like this,” he said. Af­ter be­ing shown to the pub­lic the Shaath House build­ing will even­tu­ally be de­mol­ished, as the owner wants to con­struct a fam­ily home.


GAZA: Pales­tinian youths from Gaza’s Free Park­our team, prac­tice their Park­our skills in Gaza City.

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