About the Artist

Laila Shawa was born in 1940 to one of Gaza’s old landowning families. She studied at the Leonardo Da Vinci School of Art in Cairo and Rome’s Academy of Fine Arts. After graduation Shawa went home to supervise arts and crafts education in refugee camps for UNWRA and entered into an informal apprenticeship with UN war photographer Hrant Nakasian. In 1967 she moved to Beirut to paint full-time. When the Lebanese civil war started she returned to Gaza and for the next decade collaborated on designing and building the Rashad Shawa Cultural Centre.

Shawa took up residence in London in 1987 and soon after started her socio-political critique Women And The Veil resulting in acclaimed paintings like The Impossible Dream. Shawa’s pioneering work during the 1980s of utilizing photography as integral to art production has left a lasting mark on contemporary Palestinian art. For the artist, it signified a departure from the traditional paint medium and instigated such works as the controversial installation Crucifixion 2000: In the Name of God at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and her immediate reactions to 9/11 in the form of sculpture entitled Clash. With her 2008 Dubai exhibition, Sarab, she briefly returned to painting with a 29 piece collection which expropriated Islamic geometric design from its historical context, asserting its role as primary visual identifier of Islamic popular culture. In January 2009, in response to the invasion of Gaza by Israel and the high death toll among children, she commenced a Gaza III series, and another series titled Cast Lead, referencing the high number of children killed in the Airstrike operation by the Israeli air force, also called Cast Lead. Trapped and The Other Side of Paradise are her most recent works. Laila Shawa lives and works in London and Vermont.