She fulfilled her dream of painting on Gaza’s walls

About the Artist

Laila al-Shawa is the daughter of Gaza’s mayor and the owner of the first cultural and artistic center in Palestine. She was born in Gaza in 1940, and studied at German schools in Egypt from the age of six. She then pursued a masters in fine art in Italy, after graduating from the Faculty of Arts at the American University in Egypt. She returned to Gaza after seven years of studies, joining the international relief agency UN Relief and Works Agency as a monuments observer and protector. She also lectured at UNESCO in education sessions for talented people. In 1987, she went on to found Gaza’s cultural center, in tribute to her father who passed away a year later.

Laila’s inseparable attachment to her Palestinian identity gives rise to a big question. Is her it her art that was inspired by Gaza, or was Gaza that inspired her to become an artist?

Laila al-Shawa: The people of Gaza are oppressed internationally and subjugated internally by Israel. They face all kinds of persecution and repression.

Chagrined by the scale of oppression, Laila embarked on the “Walls of Gaza” project, which gained significance with the daily sufferings in Palestine. The artwork was inspired from the graffiti on the city walls.

Laila al-Shawa: The wall was a platform for exchanging letters among people who lacked all means of communication. I have been working on this project until now.

At the age of six, Laila started painting, and on finishing high school, she had a desire to study political science. But a friend of her father’s advised her to go to the school of fine arts.

Laila al-Shawa: I accepted the advice.

She attended Leonardo Da Vinci School of Art in Egypt, and got a scholarship to study in Italy.

Laila al-Shawa: I studied for six years in Rome, and set my foot in the realm of fine arts.

Laila picks many different subjects for paintings which, she said, should be women or any provocative topic, all related to Palestine.

Laila al-Shawa: Provocation can be very ridiculous like a lady carrying a branded Chanel bag.