Lana Shaheen: Painting Gaza
*This story was collected in partnership with New Story Leadership.
Lana is from Gaza City. She holds a BA degree in English Literature from Al-Azhar University in Gaza. She also holds two Diplomas from Indiana University in Business Administration, Leadership and Innovation. Lana is currently pursuing her Master’s in Journalism at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. As an artist, she exhibited her work in many galleries showcasing her artwork in the USA, Canada, Palestine, Australia, Belgium and London. Additionally, Lana held her own exhibition “Faceless Humanity” in Gaza in 2017.
My stories came from my childhood, and how I was raised up in Gaza, how I became an artist, how I became a Palestinian-Gazan woman, who wants to speak for the Gaza woman. A Palestinian woman who wants to defend women in one way or another. As a woman in Palestine, we don’t have a space to talk about our stories and to share our stories. One of my stories is about how I became an artist, sharing my stories, without speaking. I always believed that we don’t have to say words, sometimes, just to share our stories. What we really can do is share our stories with our hobbies. For example, I love to do paintings. I can share some paintings. Every piece has a story, a meaning. It has something that I really want to share with people all around the world, which I did. Since 2014, the Gazan War, I was sharing my story, by my art, on websites, the internet. Everyone started talking to me all over the world, like from Canada, Australia, from Belgium. I never expected that people would be excited to know more about my life, about my experience, about how I became so strong sharing my story in this way.
I’ve been drawing since my childhood, and then when I grew up, I started participating in my school, in my university, in many galleries in Gaza. The first step forward, it was on 7th December of 2017, when I had my first gallery in Gaza, I called it Faces of Humanity. This gallery was to share the stories of Palestinians-Gazan here, who are not able to travel outside of Gaza. Because of the borders, we are literally stuck in Gaza. I wanted to share the stories, like my story, and their story, through this gallery.
I remember the first piece I sold outside of Gaza, was in 2014, during the war. Someone from Australia told me that he wanted to buy this piece of mine. This was the first step in my life. He said, “I want to buy this piece, and I will pay you something, can you please draw something else, or if you don’t want to sell this one, please let me now”. I was shocked since I never expected that a stranger man would call me because he got inspired by this piece, which gave him the full story of the Gazan people.
So, being an artist is something that really encouraged me to share everything behind my life, I didn’t see my family since I got out (one year). Since whenever you want to go back to Gaza, you need to take permission from the Israeli government, I’m not allowed to take permission, and it’s not easy to get permission. So I’m stuck in Qatar, my sister is in Egypt, and my family is in Gaza, so we are totally spread out.
I really want to start working on my project of change, and I really want to keep doing what I’m doing right now, I don’t want to stop it. My project of change is about having an art gallery or exhibition for the Palestinian people, sharing their stories from the past, to the present, to the future. Step by step until we understand the past of our grandfather’s, and then we talk about our stories, (the present) and then we can expect a better future for our grandchildren.
So, I know my project of change is not easy, but I really want to Palestinian people, the Palestinian artists, to express the past, the present and the future, in one exhibition. Which can change the idea and the stereotype about Palestine. I really want to work on my project of change so I can do something (at least) for my family, for myself and for my people. The advice that I want for myself is don’t be depressed or feel down whenever you miss your family whenever you are doing something for them. I keep blaming myself that ‘I left my family for my future’. But actually, I can say, ‘No, I left my family for my future, their future, for everyone’s future, because I’m not working only for myself, I’m working for my people’.