The art of mosaic inspires teenage artists in Gaza to recreate Palestinian heritage

The art of mosaic inspires teenage artists in Gaza to recreate Palestinian heritage

For hours each day, Palestinian artist Lama Al-Aqad, along with her partner Ahmed Ibrahim, are engrossed in the intricate process of assembling hundreds of stones and small colored ceramic pieces onto a large canvas to create a mosaic mural.

Seventeen-year-old Al-Aqad, speaking to Xinhua News Agency, is racing against time to complete the final phase of her artwork, which depicts a "Palestinian Seamstress" representing the heritage of the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. The mural is being prepared for an art exhibition scheduled before the end of the year.

Al-Aqad and Ibrahim, her partner, have dealt with over 20,000 small pieces of colored stones and ceramics to carefully place each one in its designated spot on the mosaic mural, drawing inspiration from Byzantine-style mosaic art.

The teenage artists spend at least eight hours each day, using basic tools like pliers and small cutting machines, to cut hundreds of damaged and colored ceramic pieces.

Their mural, named "Palestinian Seamstress," showcases a Palestinian woman residing in Bethlehem, wearing her traditional embroidered Palestinian dress and a long headscarf.

Al-Aqad proudly says, "Historically, our ancestors used to wear their traditional embroidered dresses."

She adds that each Palestinian city has its own distinctive dress, which differentiates it from others. However, the younger generations are becoming less familiar with their traditional clothing as they prefer to wear modern attire.

To preserve Palestinian traditional heritage through mosaic art, Ibrahim and Al-Aqad, along with 13 other teenage artists, embarked on an extraordinary initiative.

The idea came to them 18 months ago when they visited some archaeological sites discovered in the coastal area, dating back to Byzantine and Roman eras. These sites contained mosaic floors, pictures, walls, and murals made of mosaic art.

The visit was organized by the Free Thought and Culture Association, a non-governmental organization, to raise the awareness of the young artists about ancient arts in Palestinian territories, which have a rich history they should be proud of, according to Mohammed Abu Lahia, who oversees the arts department at the association.

Abu Lahia adds that the association usually implements an annual strategic plan, including visits to archaeological sites. This year, a group of teenage artists participated in the visit to these sites.

During the visit, the teenage artists noticed that the mosaic floors and pictures were not affected by climate and erosion despite over 4,000 years passing, which inspired them to propose the idea of producing mosaic murals.

To facilitate the artistic process of reviving their heritage through mosaic art, the 15 students took an intensive eight-month training course on producing mosaic murals in 2022.

Abu Lahia explains, "At first, the students learned how to produce small mosaic shapes. Day by day, the artists became more professional in creating large murals, the first of their kind in the coastal area."

The plan is to recreate a Palestinian woman from Bethlehem wearing traditional attire, a Palestinian sunbird, the Gaza sea, an olive tree, an elderly man, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock through large mosaic murals.

Abu Lahia expects all the murals to be completed by the end of the current year, and a public exhibition will be organized to allow the local residents to enjoy this remarkable art, which will become part of Palestinian heritage for future generations.