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Palestinian artists express nostalgia about Gaza airport through art works

File photo: A Palestinian man celebrates with others the opening of the Gaza International airport in Dahanieh, 1998. Picture: AP

File photo: A Palestinian man celebrates with others the opening of the Gaza International airport in Dahanieh, 1998. Picture: AP

Published Apr 8, 2022


By Sanaa Kamal

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

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"I have heard a lot about the airport in Gaza, but I have not been here before," the 23-year-old artist told Xinhua.

"I had imagined what would this place look 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 it makes the young man outraged.

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

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Qureiqa translated his feelings towards the "destroyed airport" into paintings that portray the condition of besieged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

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

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

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The airport, sitting on an area of 2,350 dunums (235 hectares), is located in the Rafah Governorate in the southern Gaza Strip.

It was designed to receive large Boeing 747 aircraft, and includes a terminal with an area of four thousand square metres, accommodating more than 750 000 passengers per year with the possibility of expansion.

However, it stopped operating in 2001, after the Israeli army damaged it as a result of military tensions with Palestinian factions. It was completely destroyed in 2006, following the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2005.

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Qureiqa is not the only artist who expresses nostalgia about Gaza airport through paintings. Jihad Jarbou, also vented her feelings by creating an iron sculpture of a tightly closed travel bag.

"For many years, when someone planned to travel, I heard my relatives saying that take me with you in the bag, to express the difficulty of travelling from Gaza," Jarbou, 22, told Xinhua.

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

"We (Gazans) suffer a lot in our trips, as we take many hours before we reach Egypt, which is our gateway to the outside world," she said, expressing her hope that the Gaza airport will be built again in the near future.

Both Qureiqa and Jerboa were among the artists who participated in the exhibition "Gaza International Airport" organised by the Tamer Foundation for Community Education, which aims to document the Gaza artists' vision of the destroyed airport and their wishes to re-establish it," said Bissan Nadim, the project coordinator at the foundation.

"It is very difficult to paint the airport by pure imagination, where (it) is just rubble and columns. The airport is a civilian entity before it is political or military, as it gives us freedom of movement, which is included in all international laws," she told Xinhua.