Womens Rights
Womens Rights

by Nida Ibrahim

From a veranda in a small house in the West Bank city of Ramallah, artist Lina Qadri is working to be part of a social revolution in Palestine against stereotypes targeting women.

Womens Rights
Womens Rights

As she opened a new canvas, the 36-year-old artist told Xinhua she is trying to shake the traditional view of women in her society.
“I hope that women have the freedom to be themselves and be able to say no. I don’t only mean financially-independent women or intellectuals, but also ordinary mothers raising the new generation,” Qadri told Xinhua while pouring different colors on the palette.
The artist’s house is like a mini-exhibition where different paintings are scattered around the L-shaped pink and green couches.
Different-length wine glasses were arranged in front of a light purple painting, calm Turkish-styled clarinet music played in the background and the initial features of Qadri’s painting began to show; a range of tall women in different colors and hair-style standing next to each other on the International Women’s Day.
As many nations observe the International Women’s Day in March, Qadri said that her struggle for women freedom is a daily journey.
Most of her paintings are devoted to women and she justifies that by the deep connection she feels with the women in her life. “I feel related to their dreams, feelings and suffering,” she stressed.
Women in the traditional Palestinian society still suffer patriarchy and a gender-based distribution of roles. Palestinian women, representing half of the population, suffer problems like child marriages, wages discrimination and low participation in the public life.
One out of five women aged between 20 and 49 had been married at the age of 18, according to official statistics.
Qadri said she wanted her paintings to tell each woman to be comfortable in her own skin and be satisfied with her look, body and feelings.
“I feel that there’s an emphasis to depict women as strong,” she complained. “I want to draw women in all their stages, whether they are afraid, broken, tired, sad, wild, and ecstatic. In my paintings, I feel it’s important for women to take down all masks society wants them to put on and be real,” she highlighted.
“I draw this in the dark,” Qadri said, pointing out at a red, yellow and a green drawing of a crying woman hugging someone. She explained that the woman feels a deep sense of fear and depression.
“I was very sad when I drew it and it reflects a feeling of the fear of loss,” she said, explaining that women have the right to experience a spectrum of feelings.
She noted that some women in her exhibitions still feel ashamed to look at pictures showing women in intimate positions. “This is not a shame but a part of the human experience that women should be free to explore,” she added.
As she translates her feelings into a painting, sometimes Qadri does not have a sketch in mind. “Each painting has a certain feeling, because when I start to paint, I don’t have a certain subject in my mind and I really want my feelings to guide me so that’s why I just let the color flow over the canvas and the result is always satisfying for me,” she explained.
Born in Kuwait and lived most of her life in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Qadri’s journey to art was challenging. She has always loved art and drawing as young as she can remember.
Busy with the new marriage she was rushed into, the new bride at the age of 15 did not have time to follow her passion and had to devote most of her time to the new family of three children.
“I was 26 when my children went to school and I wanted to go finish high-school, yet I was faced with negative criticism and no support,” she added. However, she managed to finish an art major study in Al-Najah University in Nablus.
She said her inner strength and independence have helped her break many barriers to be the artist she always wanted to be.
As an artist, Qadri meets other talented Palestinian women who find it difficult to follow art as a path in life due to social obstacles and economic barriers. Many paintings stay in their desk drawers as the idea of an exhibition remains only as a dream.
Qadri is one of few current Palestinian artists who have organized four solo exhibitions where the turnout was exceptionally high. “I think that the audience is curious to see the work of female artists,” she said.
Some observers say that there is a development in the way the society perceives the women rights issue, yet problems still remain. Women in public roles and senior administrative and political positions stay as a minority.
According to statistics by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, only 16 percent of females were judges in 2013. For every 10 journalists, two are females in Palestine. Diplomatically, only 5 percent of the Palestinian ambassadors are women.
“We live in a “rotten” patriarchal system and the young people need to take it off upon their shoulders to change this system,” Mohammed Al-Haj Ahmed, Qadri’s friend told Xinhua. He has been impressed by Qadri’s paintings and strong personality.
“I believe that there are many other women like Lina but they don’t have the space to prove themselves. I think that we are going to face a revolution done by the young generation. Our generation can create an important change,” Ahmed said.
The artist said she can observe a slow change in the society. “The main focus should be on the education, changing the curriculum, eliminating any gender-based judgments, pushing for an image of women leaders as CEO’s, and making women to believe that their goal is not only to be good housewives,” she added.
“I want to defend women’s freedom. I want women to be free from the authority of men and religion. Some men use religion to control their women and we need to bring awareness about these issues,” Qadri said while continued the painting she started to paint. Enditem

Source; Xinhua

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