A Gaza Artist Creates 100 Square Feet of Beauty, and She’s Not Budging

Jodi Rudoren in The New Yor Times:


GAZA2-articleLargeNIDAA BADWAN’S room is less than 100 square feet, lit by a single window and a bare bulb. She has slathered one wall with aquamarine paint and covered another in a patchwork of colored egg cartons. There is a medium-size mirror, an antique sewing machine and iron, two easels, a large yellow ladder and a gas canister on which she boils water to make a sweet cappuccino drink from a packet. Alienated by 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.

The project is called “100 Days of Solitude” in homage to Gabriel García Márquez’s landmark novel, though Ms. Badwan’s isolation has been much longer. Its 14 self-portraits, all about 40 by 22 inches, are on display at an East Jerusalem art gallery, whose director, Alia Rayyan, said they evoked the Dutch masters of the 16th and 17th centuries with modern splashes, made more meaningful against the unseen backdrop of chaos outside. That may be a stretch, but the images are undeniably compelling. Here is Ms. Badwan lying on her tummy in jean overalls and a wool hat, bare ankles crossed, staring at a laptop. There she is on a tire swing hung from that yellow ladder, buttoning a man’s shirt with a look of defiant pride. Wiping tears as she peels an onion. Threading a needle to sew a quilt. Gulping from a tin cup. Tapping an old typewriter, meditating, applying lipstick.

More here.