Through Young eyes, a series of drawings by Palestinian teenagers who lived through last year's Israel-Gaza conflict, will be exhibited at London's P21 gallery, from 7-22 August as part of Gaza on Gaza, a wider exhibition of work by Palestinian artists.
The 51 day conflict claimed over 1,500 civilian lives and displaced 500,000 people from their homes. The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 children require some form of mental health support to cope with the events they witnessed or experienced over the summer of 2014.
The young artists participated in a project run by Christian Aid partner Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA), an organisation which provides therapeutic activities for children and young people.
After the ceasefire the teenagers, supervised by CFTA, went out to shelters to meet other children and listen to their stories. These stories and discussions, their own experiences and what they heard on the news and from within their communities, inspired the illustrations on display.
Lama Shakshak, aged 16 from Gaza explains : "My paintings express the rights of Palestinian children to live in an environment that is safe, without conflict and violence. Palestinian children still stand despite the difficulties and destruction surrounding them. CFTA has really helped me by giving me pencils and paints to draw my suffering. I feel when I draw that something in my heart is released."
CFTA provides vital support to young people giving them the opportunity to learn, play and grow their talents in as safe a space as can be provided. The organisation encourages them to express themselves and fulfil their dreams to become artists, writers, musicians or actors - and to join together and use their skills to ensure that their voices are heard.
The drawings are accompanied by a series of images of the devastation by award-winning photographer Heidi Levine, who travelled to Gaza with Christian Aid in 2014 to document the aftermath of the Israeli bombardment.
Gaza on Gaza is curated by the Gaze on Gaza campaign, Christian Aid and the Palestinian Arts Festival in partnership with P21 Gallery.
The exhibition also features an installation by Gaza artist Majdal Nateel. If I Wasn't There, was inspired by her experiences volunteering with the UN and working with children in their shelters during last year's conflict. The work consists of 400 drawings imagining the dreams and aspirations of the children who died.
Majdal Natel said: "I am dedicating my artistic tools to talk on behalf of the children who lost their voices simply because they were here, or there...If I Wasn't There is about this: if I hadn't been here, then maybe my mother would now be brushing my hair or making my favorite food, maybe my clothes size would have changed and maybe I wouldn't be just a statistic broadcast on the news."
Gaza on Gaza opens on 6 August 6.30pm - 9pm with a Q and A from Majdal. Throughout the exhibition there will be a programme of talks, events and film screenings, including a Christian Aid event highlighting the work of CFTA on 19 August.
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