Basharat Bashir

Artists Lost Amidst Conflict

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Gaza, a territory marked by conflict and resilience, has been witnessing a devastating toll on its vibrant arts community during the recent war between Israel and Hamas. The once-thriving artistic spirit that prevailed in the region is now overshadowed by the loss of artists, writers, and musicians who were central to Gaza’s cultural identity.

Heba Zagout, a 39-year-old Palestinian artist, used her vibrant paintings to convey messages of peace and identity to the world. Her depictions of Jerusalem’s holy sites and Palestinian women adorned in traditional dresses served as a visual testament to the rich cultural heritage of the region. Tragically, Heba, along with her two children, became victims of an Israeli air strike, leaving a void in the artistic community she passionately contributed to.Heba Zagout is just one among an unknown number of artists, writers, and musicians who have lost their lives during the ongoing conflict, which has claimed over 18,000 lives in the coastal strip. The artistic community in Gaza, once surprisingly thriving despite numerous challenges, is now grappling with the devastating loss of voices that were central to its spirit.

Heba’s commitment to using art as a medium for expressing the Palestinian cause and identity is reflective of the broader legacy of the Palestinian arts community. Artists like her, including Mohammed Sami Qariqa, a storyteller capturing the realities of conflict through various mediums, and Hiba Abu Nada, a poet and novelist, have left an indelible mark on Gaza’s cultural landscape.

The conflict has not only claimed lives but has also raised concerns about the destruction of cultural spaces. The Dar al-Kalima art center in Gaza City, where Heba was active, is now under threat due to the proximity of Israeli bombardment.

Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran priest and founder of Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem, emphasizes the resilience and creativity of the people in Gaza. He notes that the international community often underestimates the creative prowess of those living in the region.

The plight of visual artist Mohammed Almadhoun adds another layer to the tragedy. Scheduled to participate in an artist residency in Ireland, Almadhoun finds himself trapped at the Rafah border due to the conflict. His studio, housing 25 years of paintings, has been destroyed, and he now faces an uncertain future, sheltering in a United Nations school amidst dire conditions.

According to the news article published in The Guardian,  a number of artists have been killed by the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. Quoting  Mitri Raheb the article further said, One was Mohammed Sami Qariqa, who died last month when a missile hit al-Ahli Baptist hospital where hundreds of Palestinians were sheltering.

Three days earlier, he wrote on Facebook that he felt a responsibility “to convey the news and events that happen inside the hospital, capturing a set of painful details with my phone camera, including photo, video, voice, writing and drawing, etc … I am collecting many of these stories with different techniques.” He entertained children in the hospital compound by playing games.

It was further stated in the article that the staff at the Tamer Institute for Community Education, a Palestinian NGO, told Sky News: “He was the soul of the art studio at Tamer, as he was the one to open it every day, putting the paintings up, mixing the colours and waiting for other youth members to arrive.” He loved life and he loved Gaza, they said.

According to the Palestinian ministry of culture in another tragic incident Hiba Abu Nada, a poet and novelist, was killed along with her son in an air strike in Khan Yunis on 20 October.  The 32-year-old writer had published collections of poetry and a novel, Oxygen is Not for the Dead, which won second place at the Sharjah Awards for Arab creativity in 2017.

She posted her last poem on X, formerly Twitter, a few days before her death in arabic here is the translation.

Gaza’s night is dark apart from the glow of rockets,

quiet apart from the sound of the bombs,

terrifying apart from the comfort of prayer,

black apart from the light of the martyrs.

Goodnight, Gaza.

The loss of artists like Heba Zagout and the challenges faced by those like Mohammed Almadhoun highlight the urgent need for global attention to the plight innocent civilians in Gaza including its artistic community. Beyond the conflict, it is a call to recognize and appreciate the resilient spirit of those who use art as a powerful tool for expression, resistance, and a testament to the enduring Palestinian identity.

 Art for environment

 The realization of seriousness of environmental changes and the catastrophic events that are beginning to unfold there is dire need of a collective effort to save our future. The human made environmental disorder is leading us towards a life threatening climate change, that if not addressed soon will cause an irreversible damage that will turn earth into an unlivable planet. People acros al professions and backgrounds need to make a collective effort to stop, prevent and raise awareness towards the practices that we continue to employ on the cost of our future. Artists around the world have been very keen in addressing environmental issues through different forms of art.  In creating environmental art, environment itself becomes the work of art raising issues related to the damage we humans are causing to it.  It attempts to raise awareness regarding global warming, deforestation, air pollution and degrading condition of our rivers and oceans.

In its early phase in 1960s the environmental art was mostly associated with sculpture- Site-specific art, and Land art, but gradually painting, photography, music, dance and other forms of human interaction mediums were also included in it. Environmental art encompasses other, similar movements, such as ecological art. Ecological art, or ecoart, is an artistic practice or discipline proposing paradigms sustainable with the life forms and resources of our planet. Rooted in Earthworks, Land Art, and landscape painting/photography, Ecoart is not limited to artists.  Philosophers, scientists, and activists who are devoted to the practices of ecological art play an equally important role in promoting the idea of Ecoart. The main aim of Ecoart is to create awareness, stimulate dialogue, change human behavior towards other species, and encourage the long-term respect for the natural systems we coexist with.

Eco art by definition drawn collectively by Ecoart network is, ‘an art practice that embraces an ethic of social justice in both its content and form/materials’. Its aim is to inspire caring and respect, stimulate dialogue, and encourage the long-term flourishing of the social and natural environments in which we live. it uses various approaches to address the environmental issues including images and objects, projects involving volunteers to restore polluted environments; activist projects that engage others and activate change of behaviors or public policy; time-based social sculptures that involves communities in monitoring their landscapes and taking a participatory role in sustainable practices; ecopoetic projects, inspiring healing and co-existence with other species; direct-encounter artworks that involve natural phenomena such as water, weather, sunlight, or plants; pedagogical artworks that share information about environmental injustice and ecological problems such as water and soil pollution and health hazards; relational aesthetics that involve sustainable, off-the-grid, permaculture existences.

Aida Sulovaa street artistfrom Kyrgyzstanis transforming the mundane into a powerful message by using trash bins as her canvas, Sulova is tackling the pervasive garbage problem in the city with visually striking images, aiming to draw attention to the environmental crisis lurking within the streets of Bishkek.Sulova’s unique approach involves pasting photographic images of open mouths on garbage cans across the city. This innovative street art serves as a stark reminder to the residents of Bishkek that the waste they discard into the world eventually finds its way into their own lives. Sulova’s creations not only catch the eye but also convey a socially conscious message about the disconnectedness of human actions and their impact on the environment.Beyond her street art project, Sulova also initiated a plastic bag clean-up campaign titled “Once Upon a Plastic Bag.” Through these endeavors, she aims to inspire others to envision a cleaner and safer environment for future generations. Aida Sulova’s street art is more than just an aesthetic addition to Bishkek’s landscape; it’s a powerful call to action. In the face of a burgeoning waste crisis, Sulova’s visually striking creations serve as a poignant reminder of the environmental consequences of human actions. Through her art, she encourages not only awareness but also a sense of responsibility, inspiring positive change in the community and beyond.

Perhaps the most celebrated instance of environmental art in the late 20th century was 7000 Oaks, an ecological action organized by Joseph Beuys. It was first presented In documenta 7 in 1982. Beuys proposed a plan to plant 7000 oaks throughout the city of Kassel, each paired with a basalt stone. The 7000 stones were piled up on the lawn in front of the Museum Fridericianum with the idea that the pile would shrink every time a tree was planted.

In response to the extensive urbanization of the setting the work was a long-term and large-scale artistic and ecological intervention with the goal of enduringly altering the living space of the city. The project, though at first controversial, has become an important part of Kassel’s cityscape.Beuys’ 7000 Oaks work is an example of the thread that links the Situationist International’s approach to art and its re-creation by new groups continues to evolve through a new generation of socially conscious organizations that merge art, education, and environmental issues in their work.




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