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Home » ART[icle]S, Censorship Issue

Censorship Issue: Pop Art from Palestine – Laila Shawa The Other Side of Paradise Exhibition

Submitted by on March 22, 2012 – 10:23 amNo Comment


Laila Shawa Disposable Bodies No 3 2010, Mannequin, mixed media and grenade

Headless, armless and feetless mannequins, painted in bold colours and adorned with gem stones and colourful paintings inspired by Pop Art – the first impression of Laila Shawa’s exhibition „The other Side of paradise“ is beautiful, indeed. But a closer look reveals chains and belts of munitions and dynamite on the torsos and bombers in the between the cheerful colours. The other side of “paradise” in Gaza is a complex reality of suicide

The artist Laila Shawa was born in Gaza in 1940 and just 8 years old when the State of Israel was declared to exist in her homeland Palestine. She’s been dedicating her artistic career to express the complex realities of life for Palestinians. She lends a voice to her people, especially women, whose experiences are often ignored by the media.

Her series “Disposable Bodies”, female torsos, equipped with suicide bomber belts were inspired by the Channel 4 documentary “The Cult of the Suicide Bomber”, which featured a young Palestinian women caught crossing the border wearing a suicide belt and her despair when she realises she is unable to destroy herself.

The title “Dispensable Bodies” is reference to the training of ,female, suicide terrorists: they are instructed to believe that there is no importance of whether they live or die – their bodies are dispensable. Some of these bodies look like sex objects with nipple tassels and corsets.

In a statement to Frieze magazine Laila Shawa compares suicide terrorists to sex objects: “They are used, and they are used and used and abused. These women are not considered people – they have no head, no arms or legs – it is only their sex that counts.”

Laila Shawa works on large canvases and quite obviously quotes the big stars of Pop Art such as Andy Warhol in her “Fashionista Terrorista” depicting four portraits of a veiled Palestinian woman in different colours. In her mixed media artwork “Gaza Sky”, which shows a bright blue sky full of toy air-fighters she uses the proclamation “Whaam” from Roy Liechtenstein’s iconic comic paintings.

Especially gripping are her graffiti inspired works “Trapped” I-III with words in Arabic hiding a screaming woman in the background. Graffiti played an important role during the media blackout enforced by Israel in the time of the first Intifada. The messages carried anything from personal communiqués to political slogans and calls for strikes to the Palestinian public. The “Trapped” series vividly express the frustration that comes with the lack of free flow of information.

But it’s the combination of the Pop-Art technique, traditionally focusing on every-day life and shallow Pop Culture and her highly political context that makes her artwork so appealing and shocking.

Overall, the exhibition satisfies the aesthetic demands of the viewers as well as confronting the viewer and providing food for thought about the Palestinian conflict. Participants in the Olive Tree programme, a unique scholarship programme to bring together Palestinian and Israeli students at City University will probably get the most out the of the exhibition, but it will also be of interest for anyone interested in middle eastern politics and/or art. Don’t miss your chance to see one of the most influential Middle Eastern Pop-Art artists.

The exhibition is on view at the October gallery in 24 Old Gloucester Street  Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3AL until 31st March 2012. Admission is free.



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