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Strokes of resistance: Redrawing the Palestinian narrative Open in fullscreen

Mohammed Arafat

Strokes of resistance: Redrawing the Palestinian narrative

Drawing by artist Sahar Salah, Gaza [Mohammed Arafat]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2017

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There is more to the Gaza Strip than destruction and suffering; Mohammed Arafat talks to a Gazan artist who uses drawings to resist the occupation.
With the decade long siege, the Gaza Strip is a place of suffering and sorrow, struggling with the brutalities inflicted upon that cause economic, social and physical upheaval for its Palestinian residents. Yet, it has another side to it, one of beauty and will; a testament to the world that Gazans remain hopeful, dependent on themselves and their ability to bring about change.


The Gaza Strip is home to numerous talents, and those inside it are keen to show the beautiful face of the Strip to the outside world, and that despite the suffering faced every day, Gaza’s talents cannot die.


Pressures, siege and oppression taught the people of this small, besieged area how to create new things from nothing. Some went on to become international singers, like Mohammed Assaf, and others have become world-leading painters, actors, writers and poets.


Sahar Salah, a 25-year-old painter living in Gaza, is one of hundreds in the besieged Strip with a talent. With a wish to use her talents to serve her country Palestine, Sahar uses her painting pencils to narrate the Palestinian cause since 1948. An exceptional painter, she has mastered portrait drawing and draws the portraits of Arab leaders, along with other famous writers and poets.


Pressures, siege and oppression taught the people of this small, besieged area how to create new things from nothing.   

Pressures, siege and oppression taught the people of this small, besieged area how to create new things from nothing

Sahar begun her craft when she was nine years old. At school, she would draw pictures of animals and share them with her teachers, often participating in school competitions and finding herself selected from the finalists.


While studying at the Islamic University of Gaza, painting was put on hold for a while as she focused on her studies, but she soon resumed the craft she loves.


At university, Sahar didn’t enjoy her studies, feeling that the course she undertook, basic education, is not widely required in the Strip.

"As you know, unemployment in Gaza is more than 60 percent," Sahar said.

"Since I am unemployed like thousands, and I know it's not easy to find a job here, I decided to depend on my skills of painting so I can make my own job."


When asked about the message she wants to deliver through her paintings, Sahar said that she loves her country, and wants to remind people that Palestine is alive whatever happens, that "the dead leaders must be remembered as we continue to live and see the results of their actions."

Sahar has added that she wants everyone in the world to know the Palestinian case, especially the prisoners in the Israeli jails case, through her paintings.

Gaza is full of talents, Sahar insists, but they’re not heard by those interested as the media is busy covering the suffering of the Palestinians.

I resist the occupation with my pencil... I consider my pencil my weapon with which I can express my feelings and demand my stolen rights

"In Gaza, we have artists, actors, singers, writers and others who can make a change in the Strip through their skills," she adds

"For example," Sahar explains, "I resist the occupation with my pencil; I consider my pencil my weapon with which I can express my feelings and demand my stolen rights.”


Sahar ends the interview by inviting the world to look at Gaza with a different lens and appreciate the beauty that it holds, not just the destruction and suffering known. She leaves with a word of advice for those talented and feeling hopeless: don’t worry, the future can be changed through your craft.



Mohammed Arafat holds a bachelor degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and is preparing for a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies. Author of Still Living There, a book documenting Gaza's last war and its aftermath. You can read more of his poetry on his blog here.

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