Gaza artist mixes beauty and pain in her ballet paintings

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Palestinian artist Abeer Jebril’s dark-colored paintings show ballerinas chained to barbed wire, dancing on rocks or facing barricades to reflect what she calls the reality of the women’s ‘time bomb’ in Gaza .

She hopes her portraits will draw attention to the social and political issues facing women in Gaza, home to two million people and devastated by wars and economic restrictions.

The artist said her work also portrays the restrictions women face within the family and community in Gaza, a traditionally conservative territory ruled by the Islamist group Hamas since 2007.

Inspired by Edgar Degas, a French impressionist artist, Jebril said that a ballet dancer portrays women as beautiful, free, powerful and athletic.

“The reason I chose the ballet dancer is because I see her as an icon of beauty and power. Therefore, I chose her to become the hero of my works,” said Jebril, 35. , to Reuters at his home in Gaza.

“It shows what the woman feels, lives, faces and how she is in chains, it shows the public how she feels in Gaza,” she said, sitting in front of several of her paintings.

One painting shows a dancer with her feet chained in barbed wire. Another walks on rocks while a third woman wraps herself around a grenade.

“The men and women are both chained under occupation,” Jebril said, referring to Israel, which, along with Egypt, imposes strict border restrictions on Gaza for security reasons.

She said her paintings also shed light on how “women suffer from male dominance and the inability to have a say in the issues that matter.”

Men and women, Jebril said, “live in a time bomb in Gaza,” not knowing what will happen next.

Jebril said she had ideas for her paintings based on movements of international ballet dancers and those of her 11-year-old daughter, Maya, who dances ballet.

His portraits, made with painter’s knives, have been exhibited in galleries in some European and Arab countries.

“I was desperate seeing paintings on display outside (Gaza) and couldn’t be there. I had so hoped to stand next to them,” she said.

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