There has been extensive news coverage and hype this month around the recent Banksy street-art mural that literally popped up on the hanging door of a bombed house in Gaza… and in true Banksy fashion, it was a clever choice of canvas and painting with an attached sentiment conveyed visually for the world to ponder, and we are very sure it was all well-intentioned.
As a fan of Banksy’s talents, and what he anonymously represents as a politically-charged global street artist, we watched the video release that followed from his visit to the war-torn region and felt it was very powerful. His brand of street-art always conveys an instantly grasping message, and the marketing or PR aspects of what he does has a momentum all of its own; and always grabbing much attention in the headlines.
Banksy has become very much globally renowned for his work over the years, and the three paintings he revealed whilst in Gaza certainly got the kind of coverage worldwide expected. It’s quite easy for any artist to criticise what the artist has achieved over the years, but the manner in which it is done… it must surely be respected!
But the Banksy in Gaza publicity stunt didn’t just end with the clever visual message… on the ground in the region where much conflict, hardship and struggles exist amongst local communities, it brought much ill feeling from locally based creatives and artists who feel they are very much unheard and supported in comparison to the already famous UK artist.
The controversy escalated locally when the owner of the demolished house door on which Banksy chose as the canvas for one of his paintings got duped into selling it to another person for a fraction of the price it is likely to be worth. The situation eventually escalated into local Police having to seize the art work due to the dispute it caused.
The other interesting local response was general feelings invoked about a famous, western artist coming into the region anonymously, and getting such an array of global publicity within days. Many struggling local creatives and artists on the ground questioned why their work is never supported by the wider global communities. A natural response we felt when considering the lack of local opportunities for creatives in Gaza, and then we heard about a young 13 year old boy who decided to convey this local feeling with his proactive response.
Mohammad Qreqi’s actions captured our attention not only because we always strive to support local based talent who require it all around the world, but because we felt that his actions, similarly as with Banksy’s work; also conveyed a hard-hitting underlying message with an alternative angle of food-for-thought for the masses.
Mohammad heard about the visit of the famous western artist to the region of Gaza from his Facebook feed online, and chose to recreate a replica version of the weeping Greek Goddess Niobe, on exactly the same kind of door that Banksy did whilst in Gaza. His plea from his actions is to be heard by the global community in the same light as other talented artists such as Banksy are heard, or at least given the opportunities to get heard. He posts his art work on Facebook regularly and has interacted with many online from outside the region who show appreciation for his talents. When other local artists were shown the door on which Mohammad created his replica, they all thought it was the real Banksy version itself and this has enhanced his own belief in his talents further and he is hoping it will also encourage others to show support.
Mohammad’s life experience in the region is very much reflective of many others who have lost close family members to the daily struggles of long term political conflict and hardships, and his art tells his personal story and perspective from all the things he has seen, as well as what he wishes to see in Gaza.
He told us:
“My paintings discuss issues in Palestine, wars and massacres that we have seen and everything the occupation of our land is doing to us. When the artist Banksy painted one of his 3 paintings here I wanted to recreate it and show that I and many others here also have talent that can be recognised. But our talent has no voice or support here and I hope I can change this one day!”
Mohammad’s talents as an artist were discovered and nurtured further by his older brother Malik. When Malik heard about what Banksy had done locally from Facebook he showed his brother who decided to recreate it in the same way.
“The Greek Goddess painting by Banksy caused much controversy here but our intention is to try and prove to the wider world that we too are just as talented as the likes of the already famous Banksy. We too have the right to be covered by the international press, and we certainly need it more than Banksy!” said Malik, when speaking about his brothers response.
“My brother chose a similar door as to the one Banksy created his art on and we moved it to a demolished house where everyone thought it was the original version! This proves that my brother has just as much talent and ability as a famous western artist. Here it is not just Mohammad who wishes to be recognised and heard, he is a symbol that represents everyone in Gaza who receive no support!” Malik explained.
Mohammad told us that he has lived in the impoverished al-Shujai’ya neighbourhood all of his life and started painting when he was 5 years old. Since then he has exhibited his work for many international competitions and he described to us how his brother Malik would be the person buying him papers, pens, and crayons to create with in order to get better at creating.
We asked Mohammad what his dream was as an artist and young citizen in the region of Gaza:
“First of all, freeing Palestine is my dream. I also want to be an international artist and take part in competitions and international exhibitions. I want my work to be seen and hopefully appreciated. I admire artists such as Banksy, and just want to have the opportunity for me and my people to be heard. I thank him for inspiring me more and making me more determined, and I just hope we get more support and help from the world to help our talents shine too now and in the future!”
Following the filming with Mohammad and his brother, we also learnt that two of their uncles were killed in the latest war of 2014 as well as many others known by the family. Family life is very much close knit across extended families in the country and so this was quite a dramatic experience for all, especially the young kids.
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To commission Mohammad’s art work or to support in any way email: [email protected]
Special thanks to Yazan and Malak (Newsivity), and of course Mohammad and his brother Malik.