Healing through Art
Malak Mattar, Hannah Rose Thomas and Elizabeth Filippouli
Malak Mattar and Hannah Rose Thomas in conversation with Elizabeth Filippouli.
Malak Mattar joins the festival from Gaza in person to discuss the impact of war on her art and the influences that mould her artwork. Malak Matar is a self-taught expressionist artist, her colorful paintings pay homage to her hometown Gaza in which she grew up and lived through the hardships of war.
Malak started painting at the age of 14 during the 51-day military assault on Gaza in 201. Her work explores womanhood, homeland, and family, focusing on expressionist faces, figures, and semi-abstract designs. Her works drew interest from galleries and museums around the world, as her paintings have been featured in individual and group exhibitions in Costa Rica, England, France, India, Palestine, Scotland, Spain, Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, and eleven US states. She is also the author and illustrator of Sitti’s Bird, a children’s book based on her own life story.
Mattar, age 21, paints powerfully expressionist faces, figures, and semi-abstract designs. She first started painting at age 13, during the 51-day Israeli military assault on Gaza in 2014. Forced to stay inside for her own safety, Malak says, “I felt a compelling need to release all my negative energy—fear, anxiety, and sheer terror.” She started painting with school art supplies, using basic watercolor on paper. A world of self-expression opened for her.
Unable to leave Gaza due to the Israeli blockade, Malak showed her paintings to the world through social media, on Instagram and Facebook. On her fourteenth birthday, she began offering her originals for sale to buyers around the world. Within two years, she became financially independent. Mattar’s artwork soon garnered interest from galleries beyond Palestine. Her artwork has been featured in many individual and group exhibitions in Jerusalem, France, Spain, Turkey, Costa Rica, India, England, and the United States, including the Art under Siege exhibit at the Rayburn House, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Malak also`excelled academically, achieving the highest grade average in the Gaza Strip in her senior year of high school, and the second highest grade average in all of Palestine—the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She won a full scholarship to Aydin University in Turkey, where she currently lives.
Malak now paints in both acrylic and oils on canvas. The motifs of her paintings range from visceral feelings to dream visions to abstract concepts. One of her best-known paintings features a woman with an ocean-blue face and a meditative expression, her profile emerging, like the dark side of the moon, from a vivid orange planet. The whorls of her curly hair encircle the planet. with some curls breaking free to float in space. This painting was chosen as the cover art for the book We Are Not Numbers, a book featuring the narratives of young Palestinian adults about their experiences under siege.
Recent highlights of Malak’s career include a tour of the United States in 2020, including speaking engagements on college campuses—Yale University, Smith College, Manhattan College, UMass Boston, and others. Recent exhibits include a solo exhibition at the Cultural House in Frieburg, Germany, a group exhibition at the Museum of the Palestinian People in WA, DC, and a group exhibition in Einhoven, Holland, titled Post Colonization (all in 2020).
In 2021, Malak published her first book, Grandma’s Bird, an autobiographical children’s story that describes how a young girl in Gaza learns to control her fears through creativity, finding freedom even under occupation—and, ultimately, a way out to the wider world. Published by the UK-based Hands Up Project, a percentage of proceeds go to the project, which helps children in difficult circumstances, including Palestine, use language enhanced through creativity, performance, and collaborative interaction.
“I strive to be an artist and ambassador for Palestinian people all over the world,” Malak says. She adds, “Every human being should be able to live in peace no matter what their origins are. The real victims are the children. If they survive war, they also have to survive living after the war
Elizabeth Filippouli is an international journalist and writer, her latest book ‘From Women to the World’ was published by Bloomsbury UK in 2021 and is a book that shows us the power that women have not just to inspire each other, but also to motivate and reinvent our world.
She is the Founder of Global Thinkers Forum (GTF) an independent civil society agency incubated at the University of Oxford. It was launched in Jordan in 2012 under the patronage of Queen Rania of Jordan and developed into a global network of thought leaders promoting values-driven leadership, also supporting women and youth empowerment through mentoring programmes reaching more than 70 countries, and other initiatives.
She joined CNN International as World Report contributor in 2000 and Al Jazeera English as presenter and documentary producer in 2005. For Al Jazeera English she produced investigative documentaries, among them: Greekgate, Italygate, A King Without a Country. Over her career she interviewed leading figures such as: Ted Turner, James Rubin, Deepak Chopra, Mohamed El Baradei, Santiago Calatrava, Enrique Oltuski, Alberto Juantorena, Chris Cramer, Al Gore, Susan Sarandon, Lord Robertson, Christiane Amanpour, Peter Arnett, King Constantine of Greece, Lord Sebastian Coe.
Her book ‘From Women to the World-Letters for a New Century’ was published by IB Tauris in July 2021 and through personal narratives and real-life stories, she raises awareness around social issues such as gender equality, homelessness, war, LGBTQ activism, mental health, COVID-19, the refugee crisis. The book received praise in the international press, Vanity Fair, The Independent, The Guardian, The New Arab, The National, Vogue Arabia, and it was presented at the Hay Festival in May 2021 with excerpts read by actresses Kate Winslet, Juliet Stephenson, Suzanne Packer, Vanessa Redgrave, Louise Brealey, Livia Firth, Dame Stephanie Shirley and was also translated to Greek. Her first nonfiction book ‘The Invisible Reality’ was published in Greece in 2004.
In 2018 Elizabeth launched Athena40, a family of diverse initiatives that advance women in leadership by creating recognition opportunities and connecting them with peers around the world. Elizabeth has served on the Global Advisory Board of the Prince’s Trust International and the board of the International News Safety Institute.
Hannah Rose Thomas
Hannah Rose Thomas is a British artist and an UNESCO PhD Scholar at the University of Glasgow. She has previously organised art projects for Syrian refugees in Jordan; Yazidi women who escaped ISIS captivity in Iraqi Kurdistan; Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps and Nigerian women survivors of Boko Haram. Her paintings of displaced women are a testament to their strength and dignity. These have been exhibited at places including the International Peace Institute in New York, UK Houses of Parliament, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Buckingham Palace, GCHQ, FCO, Lambeth Palace, Westminster Abbey and The Saatchi Gallery. Her exhibition ‘Tears of Gold’was featured in the virtual exhibition for the UN’s Official 75th Anniversary, ‘The Future is Unwritten: Artists for Tomorrow.’ Hannah was selected for the Forbes 30 Under 30 2019 Art & Culture; shortlisted for the Women of the Future Award 2020 and selected for Vogue Future Visionaries 2022.
Facebook: Hannah Rose Thomas Art
– Solo exhibition, Della Citta Museum, Rimini, Italy
– Solo exhibition, Gasa Internazionale Delle Donne, Rome, Italy
– Solo exhibition, Omar Suliman Cultural Center, Napoli, Italy
– Solo exhibition, Teatro Di Vita, Bologna, Italy
– Art auction organized by the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), New York
City, NY, US (one original and four signed prints auctioned)
– Commissioned mural in Bristol, UK, entitled “Through a Palestinian Lens,” by Bristol Palestine Film,
– Group exhibition, Boughton House, Greenbelt Festival, UK
– Solo exhibition, Artemisia Gallery, Padua, Italy
– Solo exhibition, Barchessa di Villa Concina (Dolo), Venice, Italy
– Solo exhibition, Barchessa di Villa Belvedere (Murano) Venice, Italy
– Solo Exhibition, Annual Lisbon and Sintra Film Festival, Portugal.
– Solo virtual exhibition and lecture, Museum of the Palestinian People, Washington, DC,
– Solo virtual exhibition, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
– Lecture, Yale Art School, New Haven, US
– Lecture, Art and Design Academy, Eindhoven, Holland
– Lecture, Institute of Democracy and Education, Boston, US
– Six-month virtual workshop with immigrants, in collaboration with the University of
Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK
– Lecture, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, US
– Group exhibition, Art Prize GrUSA, Grand Rapids, Michigan, US
– Group exhibition, P21 Gallery, London, UK
– Auction and group exhibition, Al Bahie Auction House, Doha, Qatar
– three-week speaking tour in the Northeastern US, with presentations on seven
college campuses (Merrimack College, Smith College, Yale University, Southern Connecticut
State University, Manhattan College, Drew University, UMass Boston) and at several community events in Washington DC, New York City, Haverhill and Ipswich, MA
– Solo exhibition, “The Eyes of Women,” Cultural House, Freiburg, Germany
– Group exhibition, Museum of the Palestinian People, Washington DC, US
– Group exhibition, Palestine Museum US, Woodbridge, CT, US
– Group exhibition, “Post Colonization,” Eindhoven, Holland
– Original painting, “My Skin Is Not a Sin,” selected by the United Nations to represent the
issue of inequality
– Solo exhibition, Palestine Museum, US, Woodbridge, CT, US
– Solo exhibition, Jerusalem Fund Gallery, Washington DC, US
– Solo exhibition, Cultural Center in Columbus street, New York City, NY, US
– Group exhibition, TAC Gallery, Eindhoven, Holland
– Group exhibition, Red Rock Chateau, UK
– Exhibition and reading tour of 9 cities in Switzerland and Germany for the Palestinian
nonprofit organization We Are Not Numbers, reading original poems on the 2014 assault on Gaza.
– Various exhibition tours for primary school students in Gaza, India, and the US
– Group exhibition, The Palestine Expo, London, UK
– Group exhibition, OXO Design Centre in Southbank, London, UK
– Group exhibition, The Green Room, London, UK
– Group exhibition, in support of Palestine Demonstration, London, UK
– Solo exhibition, Greenbelt Annual Festival, London, UK
– Solo exhibition, Palestine Museum for Culture and Art, Bristol, UK
– Group exhibition with fellow Gazan artist organized by the organization Women in War, Fontenay-sous-Bois Museum, France
– Group exhibition, Mediatheque de Malakoff, France
– Group exhibition, Town Hall of Paris, France
– Group exhibition, Guray Museum, Cappadocia, Turkey
– Group exhibition with a Turkish artist, Inegol Kent Museum, Bursa, Turkey
– Solo exhibition, Palestine Embassy, Stockholm, Sweden
– Group exhibition, Palestine Expo Annual Festival, London, UK
– Group exhibition, University of California, San Diego, US
– Group exhibition, Cultural Center of California, US
– Group exhibition, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, US
– Group exhibition, Resource Center for Nonviolence, Santa Cruz, CA, US
– Group exhibition, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Yerba Buena, CA, US
– Santa Monica Pier Art Festival, Santa Monica, CA, US
– Group exhibition, The Palestine Expo, London, UK
– Group Exhibition, Art Prize USA, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
– Four exhibitions in Sacramento, CA, US
– Solo exhibition, Palestine Museum for Culture and Art, Bristol, UK
– Group exhibition organized by the Rebuilding Alliance, US Capitol Building in
Washington, DC, US
– Group exhibition as part of a conference on Gaza and Art in Palestine, University of
North Carolina, Durham, NC, US
– Group exhibition, sponsored by the American Consulate, Ambassador Hotel, Jerusalem,
– Solo exhibition, organized by Red de Solidaridad con Palestina, UNED Center, Costa Rica
– Solo exhibition, organized by Gaza Tierra y Libertad, Museum of Extremadura,
– Group exhibitions, “GAZA51,” held at art institutions in Hyderabad, lamakaan, Chena,
Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi, India
– Group exhibition, Al-Qattan Institution for Art and Culture, Gaza, Palestine
– Solo exhibition titled Boats in Journalists House, Gaza, Palestine
– Solo exhibition, the cultural Center of Popular Front, Gaza, Palestine
– Solo exhibition, European Representative Organization for Culture, Gaza, Palestine
– Group exhibition organized by the Institution of Palestinian Women, Adam Hotel, Gaza,
– Solo exhibition, University of Costa Rica, San Pedro, Costa Rica
2022 Women in War
2022 -‘My Mother’ an academic profile about my life and accomplishments Published by Duke
University and written by art historian Prof. Winnie Wong
2022 Maintenant 15: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art, Three Rooms Press, NY,
2022 Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire, Haymarket Books, Chicago, IL, US.
2022 Sitti’s Bird (Second edition of original book, illustrated and written by Malak Mattar),
Crocodile Books, Interlink Publishing, Northampton, MA, US.
2022 Featured artwork titled Gaza’s Sky in the New York Times
2021 GQ Middle East, “You and I” painting featured on the magazine cover, June 2021
2021 Témoignages de résilience au féminin: La pandémie de la Méditerranée à l’océan indien
(Testimonies of female resilience: the pandemic from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean),
L’Harmattan, Paris, France.
2021 Sitti’s Bird (Original book, illustrated and written by Malak Mattar), Hands Up, London,
2019 We Are Not Numbers, The Galaxy painting is the cover of the book
The Arts Newspaper
GQ Middle East – Cover feature of June 2021.
The Middle East Eye
The National News Arts and culture
The New Arab