intrigued and gratified by this stereotype-subverting piece in Saturday’s New York Times about Nidaa Badwan, an artist in Gaza, who’s spent most of the last year in her room, creating art.
Gaza’s restrictive religiosity and constant conflict with Israel, Ms. Badwan, 27, has hardly left the room for more than a year. Within its walls she has created her own world, and a striking set of self-portraits that are at once classical and cutting-edge.
“I wait for the light,” said Ms. Badwan, who sometimes takes a week or even a month to construct photographs that look like paintings. “Everything is beautiful, but only in my room, not in
Gaza. I’m ready to die in this room unless I find a better place.”
For once: a story about a Palestinian who’s not merely a victim of Israel, is not in a blind rage against Israel, and is neither in the process of blowing something up, nor
being blown up. Also: a story about a Palestinian woman that focuses on her work and doesn’t say a word about her religious convictions or love life. Further: a story about Palestinian art whose subject-matter doesn’t devolve into nationalist or Islamist propaganda or cliche-mongering.
Even better: a Palestinian woman from the heart of Gaza confident enough to look directly into a camera, and be photographed for the world without feeling the need to wear a hint of hijab–in jeans, a sweater, a vest, striped socks, and an enigmatic, almost Mona Lisa-like smile. Even better than that: an article that, by indirection, prompts the reader to wonder whether life might be better for Palestinians–or at least for
creative Palestinians–under Israel than it is under Hamas. Relatedly: an article that challenges the stereotype that everyone in Gaza (or in Palestine, or in Islamic countries generally) is an Islamist robot. And in a sense, very best of all: an article whose subject goes out of her way to insist on the de-pathologization of the human need for solitude.
Due to technical difficulties, I wasn’t able to paste a photo of Badwan’s work into this post, but you can view them either from the
piece, or from her
piece also links to her Facebook page. Here’s a video I found of her on You Tube. The comment at around 2:04 is telling–and sad.