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Palestine: "Painting Roots" - Story of Nisreen

03 Feb 2017

Nisreen is a Palestinian woman living in a neighborhood of Hebron city in the West Bank which was declared a closed military zone in late 2015. All Palestinian families living there had to register and received a number. No visitors, no family members, ambulances or workmen are allowed in, unless they have been given clearance by the military authorities. Nisreen lost her husband that year and paints to confront the suffering and isolation that the occupation causes in her.

Nisreen, who came to Hebron in 1993 after living in Amman as a Palestinian refugee, had always been an artist, but she took to painting more regularly after the intifada in 2000 and more seriously in 2006. Painting was her way to find freedom while having to stay inside the house in order to observe curfews and avoid checkpoints and harassment. “I paint about the situation, the old city in Hebron, about military checkpoints, the suffering, the wire fences” 

Nisreen paints mainly at night, trying to overcome the sadness she feels after her husband’s death. “I focused especially on the emotional status of the children and how to get out of the sadness that we feel, the loneliness, the fact that the children are locked in, that they cannot play outside. We feel insecure all the time.” Nisreen has received support from Médecins Sans Frontières psychologists, and she has also tried to encourage her children to paint, to express their feelings so they can process them. 

Nisreen explains that since the area was declared a closed military zone, it has become a ghost town. “We became prisoners. We live in a prison surrounded by military checkpoints. They are just conveying the message ‘if you don’t like it then leave, leave, leave!’.”