Palestinian artists express nostalgia for Gaza airport through artwork

People visit the “Gaza International Airport” exhibition organized by the Tamer Foundation for Community Education in Gaza City on March 27, 2022. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

People visit the “Gaza International Airport” exhibition organized by the Tamer Foundation for Community Education in Gaza City on March 27, 2022. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

Mohammed Qureiqa, a Gaza-based artist, stood in front of the remains of the destroyed terminal of Gaza International Airport in the southern Gaza Strip, overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and amazement at the fate of this “place dream” for Gazans.

“I’ve heard a lot about Gaza airport, but I’ve never been there before,” the 23-year-old artist told Xinhua.

“I had imagined what this place would be like and in my imagination there was an elderly woman waiting for her turn to board the plane.”

So far, the Gaza airport remains dysfunctional and this outrages the young man.

“It is not fair that Gazans are deprived of their legitimate right to have their own airport, which gives them the freedom to travel,” he said.

Qureiqa has translated his feelings towards the “destroyed airport” into paintings that depict the situation of beleaguered Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

In one of his works, he painted three stacked suitcases surrounded by large slabs with thorns.

Construction of Gaza International Airport began in late January 1996 when the late President Yasser Arafat decided to lay the foundation stone for this national edifice, and it was inaugurated in 1998.

The airport, located on an area of ​​2,350 dunums (235 hectares), is located in the governorate of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

It was designed to receive large Boeing 747s and includes a terminal with an area of ​​four thousand square meters, which can accommodate more than 750,000 passengers per year with the possibility of expansion.

However, it ceased to function in 2001, after the Israeli army damaged it following military tensions with Palestinian factions. It was completely destroyed in 2006, following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2005.

Qureiqa is not the only artist who expresses nostalgia for the Gaza airport through paintings. Jihad Jarbou, also embodied his feelings by creating an iron sculpture of a hermetically sealed travel bag.

“For many years, when someone was planning to travel, I would hear my relatives say to take me with you in the bag, to express the difficulty of traveling from Gaza,” Jarbou, 22, told Xinhua.

“I used to travel a lot, and when I landed in airports in other countries, I was heartbroken because we were deprived of being at our own airport,” Jerboa added.

“We (Gazans) suffer a lot on our journeys because it takes many hours to reach Egypt, which is our gateway to the outside world,” she said, expressing her hope. Gaza airport to be rebuilt in the near future. .

Qureiqa and Jerboa were among the artists who participated in the “Gaza International Airport” exhibition organized by the Tamer Foundation for Community Education, which aims to document “Gaza artists’ vision of the destroyed Gaza airport and their wishes to restore it,” said Bissan Nadim, the project coordinator at the foundation.

“It is very difficult to paint the airport out of pure imagination, where there are only rubble and columns. The airport is a civil entity before being political or military, because it gives us freedom of movement , which is included in all international laws,” she told Xinhua.

Christopher S. Washington