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Painting the War: Emirati artist captures pain of Gaza children
Verona-based Emirati artist Fatma Lootah captures the pain of the children of Gaza in a series of artworks
Published in Ahram Online on 08 - 08 - 2014

Contemporary Emirati artist, Fatma Lootah is an artist who is producing artwork to portray the plight of Gazans alongside the fighting currently taking place between Hamas and Israel which has taken the lives of nearly 1,875 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.
Fatma Lootah was born in Dubai; she left to study art in Iraq and later the US before moving to Verona, Italy in 1984 where she currently resides. Lootah often deals with themes of spirituality, women's issues, and social and political turmoil. Lootah's work can be characterized by movement. Her digital prints, paintings, and performance work all carry a potent energy and sense of motion.
In her latest series of works (not yet exhibited, but shared on her popular Facebook and Instagram pages) she focuses on the attack on Gaza, mostly capturing the woes of its children. She paints children on swings against grey backgrounds, drenching in colors of black and red, looking more in a state of pain than one of glee.
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In an interview with Ahram Online, the artist spoke of her recent work covering Gaza, and her duty as an artist to paint and fight the forces that thwart the rights of children to peace and joy.
Ahram Online:Your artwork often addresses key humanitarian issues, such as the attack on Gaza. Do you tackle such subjects consciously or is your artwork a natural expression of things that matter to you?
Fatma Lootah:The artist is honest by nature. He cannot witness a child screaming on the street, alone, his mother's tears still dampening his torn shirt, mourning the body of his dead brother, without reacting to a scene so wretched, and without documenting this sadness for the world to see.
AO:Do you rely on photos from the news for your work on Gaza or do you produce original compositions?
FL:The Gaza artwork is diverse. Some of the work is digital paintings based on photographs, other parts are drawn on paper in different mediums. I always try to deal with events in various ways. Using actual photographs helps to showcase unfolding events with speed.
AO:You have also produced artwork about the violent unrest in Syria. Does painting this pain relieve you of it?
FL:I have worked on the so-called Arab Spring, from Iraq to Libya to Tunisia. What always hurts about such unrest is the status of children. This is what compels me to react swiftly, in hopes that the world would strive to change the situation. Painting pain does not alleviate the suffering. The pain is much greater than that. The only thing that relieves us of pain is its absence. We only ask for God's mercy there.
AO:What do you consider to be the role of artists in times of war and crisis?
FL:It is the duty of every human being, and every artist is a human being before an artist, to try to act in all manners possible in order to change the situation. How could he not react in the face of a screaming child?
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AO:I saw a comment on one of your paintings on Facebook that called you "The artist of emotions and hearts." How much do you agree with that description of yourself?
FL:How would I not react with my soul, when I still hold within me the heart of a child?
AO:You often share your artwork on various social networking websites such as Facebook and Instagram. How do you think that influences your relationship with your audience and your fellow artists worldwide?
FL:Facebook and Instagram have helped me a lot, in two aspects. The first one in broadcasting events instantaneously so that the world may see the tragedy of these children. Instagram on the other hand, allows me to energize and expand the space for visual art consumption in the Arab world, which is something we lack in the region. Now people can be exposed to a wide range of contemporary art, and see different works, from abstract art to digital images, to performance, online every day.
AO:You recently produced a series of paintings titled "Eid Swings in Gaza,” Can you tell us more about them?
FL:It was the first day of Eid and I decided to take a day off, so I sat in my garden, where I meditate. Yet the news of the death of the children at a moment of joy, as they were riding swings in celebration of the feast, hurt me so I sat down and tried to act.
AO:Children often appear in your artwork. You recently did a live performance about Arab Spring children in Italy. How was this experience different from the work you normally do?
FL:Performance is a great medium because it is a channel to directly relay the emotional state of the artist to the audience. I started working with performance in 1985 and I feel at home with it. As I said before, the children in this spring, or autumn…pay a huge price for the sins of the older generations. It is every artist's duty to change this reality.
AO:Your work often has elements of abstraction, without being completely abstract. You are a painter, but you also do performance work and site-specific installation. How do you describe your style and justify your choice of mediums?
FL:As an artist, I consider art to be a state that I experience for a moment. It could be an abstract or realist moment, or whatever else. I paint it because I live it, and I hope that others will live it with me too.
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