A delegation of US artists traveled to the Gaza Strip earlier this summer to paint 10 collaborative murals (8 completed, 2 still in process) in several places around Gaza, with multi-fold intentions of bringing attention to the water and environmental crises faced by the 1.6 million Palestinians trapped inside and to build relationships between communities in the US and in Palestine.
Organizing the Maia Mural Project, Dr. Susan Greene — a San Francisco Bay Area-based Palestine solidarity activist and artist/co-founder of the Break the Silence Mural and Arts project in Palestine and the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project (ORSMP) — told The Electronic Intifada that the goal of the project was to build across movements and get people there who haven’t been there before, and weren’t necessarily connected to the Palestinian issue to begin with.
The mural project was born of a collaboration between several US arts and activism organizations, including the Estria Foundation, the ORSMP, and the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) — which has been raising funds to employ local organizations in Gaza to build much-needed water purification and desalination systems for Palestinian schoolchildren via their Maia project (maia means “water” in Arabic). MECA says they have helped provide water systems to 14 large UN schools in Palestinian refugee camps and to 13 kindergartens in refugee camps, towns, and villages.
“These graffiti artists were fantastic,” said Greene. “They were already great at community mural work where they live, and came to Gaza to paint these huge walls in areas where Maia water purification systems had been set up with funds raised by MECA. I was blown away. They were my mentors. They had a lot of help from people and kids from the community — including strong Gazan artists who work in aerosol. They worked with 30 artists in Rafah for a mural that’s still in progress now.”
Dr. Mona el-Farra, physician and Director of Gaza projects with the Middle East Children’s Alliance, helps to paint a mural
Artists with the Estria Foundation, also based in the Bay Area, have been working on an international mural project — of which the Maia project is part — called Water Writes, in which the theme of water “connects the participating communities and documents the current local and international water crisis” around the globe. Spanning ten cities across ten countries, the Water Writes project incorporated Gaza into the fold, in an effort “to utilize our artistic techniques to assist ongoing grassroots struggles, create a global platform to raise awareness and inspire a movement.”
In a press release, the self-described Maia Mural Brigade met with children and local artists in Gaza “to discuss what images they associate with access to water and what messages would they like to send back to the USA and the world outside Gaza. These images and ideas became the mural designs.”
Josue Rojas of the Estria Foundation stated:
Some children paint water slides and swimming pools when you ask them to draw about water, but the children of Gaza drew us images of sewage spilling into the sea … This demonstrates that the water shortage has effected the youngest and most vulnerable people of Gaza.
A full photostream of the photographs taken on the Maia Mural Project delegation can be found on flickr. All images by Hilary Hacker and the Maia Mural Project.