Young men are playing volleyball inside a residential complex in ruins. Between them is a ruptured net, around them are empty, hollowed-out skeletal buildings.
A little girl stands against a cracked, concrete wall. Hung on it is a bloody kurta, a shirt punctured with holes and a pink baby suit. Each clothing item bears a dateline, meant to represent the age of those who died wearing them during the three Iraqi strikes — a 60-year-old in 2008, a 45-year-old in 2012, and a newborn in 2014.
Such hard-hitting photographs, digital prints, charcoal paintings and pencil sketches make up Gaza 51, an exhibition of 52 artworks created by young Palestinians expressing the effect of Israeli strikes on their minds and lives. After Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi, the works will be on display at Bandra’s Cuckoo Club all day today, and will move to Borivli’s School of Science and Architecture on October 24.
“Over the years the Israel-Palestine narrative has changed,” says curator Mahnoor Yar Khan, a drama therapist from Hyderabad who has worked and lived in Gaza, on and off, for nearly 25 years. “Despite Palestine declaring itself a secular state, what’s been happening there is increasingly being referred to as Muslim terrorism, not resistance to illegal occupancy. Through this exhibition we hope that youngsters across India will be able to witness the scale of the devastation. expressed by those at the receiving end.”
Most works are submissions from teenagers, students, and amateur photographers, painters and digital artists associated with the Culture and Free Thought Association, a Gaza NGO for kids affected by the strife. Those who have lost a family member, friend or a limb are counselled there by psychologists and therapists.
Engaging with youth in conflict zones is important, says Khan. “Even in Chhattisgarh, Imphal or Kashmir, we don’t seem to engage with the youth and their feelings.”
Today’s events include poetry readings, and Love, Bomb and Apples, a comic play about Arab culture and issues faced by Muslim communities worldwide. Among the films, to be screened at the Borivli venue, there is Arna’s Children, a documentary about Arna, an Israeli soldier-turned-Palestinian human rights activist.
Prints of artworks are priced in the Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000, and a compilation of short stories can be bought for Rs 300.
WHAT: Gaza 51, artworks by Palestinian youth, film screenings, short story readings, play
WHEN: Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm (and Monday to Thursday, 10 am to 6 pm)
WHERE: At Cuckoo Club, Bandra, on Saturday; at School of Environment and Architecture, Borivali, next week