Laila al-Shawa is the owner of the first cultural and artistic center in Palestine, which she founded in 1987 as a tribute to her late father, who was mayor of Gaza.
Born in 1940, Shawa lived in Egypt from the age of six, where she studied at various German schools. Although she began painting at a young age, she initially wanted to study political science at university.
However, on the advice of a friend of her father’s, she studied art at the American University in Egypt. She went on to study on a scholarship at the Leonardo Institute of Art in Cairo, which then led her to travel to Italy and undertake a masters degree in fine arts. “I studied for six years in Rome, and set my foot in the realm of fine arts,” the painter said.
Shawa’s strong bond with her Palestinian identity and birthplace, as well as her empathy for the country’s political plight, is seen in her project entitled “Walls of Gaza,” which drew inspiration from the city’s graffiti.
“The people of Gaza are oppressed internationally and subjugated internally by Israel. They face all kinds of persecution and repression,” Shawa said. “The wall was a platform for exchanging letters among people who lacked all means of communication. I have been working on this project until now.”
All her paintings, provocative or not, share the common element of Palestine.
Aside being an artist, Shawa is also a monuments observer and protector of the United Nations Relief and Works agency. She has also given education sessions for talented people at UNESCO.
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