Laila Shawa

Renowned Palestinian artist Laila Shawa is known for her use of bold colours and illustrative designs to tackle structural violence, political turmoil, the plight of children and resistance. Shawa paints, photographs and uses silk screen in her art, which includes whimsical paintings exemplifying the beauty and harshness of life for Palestinians living in Gaza.

Born in Gaza in 1940, Shawa’s ongoing series of silkscreens and prints entitled The Walls of Gaza strive to reflect the political realities of her country, targeting themes of injustice and persecution. “Irony in my work is very much part of my personality,” Shawa says of her distinctive style. “I always look for the absurd, and try to cover it up with humour.” This piece is from the Women and the Veil series, in which Shawa critiques the hijab in an ostensibly humorous manner.

Shawa, who also illustrates children’s books, studied in Cairo, Rome, and Austria, and worked for United Nations children's art programs in Gaza in the 1960s. Her work has been exhibited around Europe, the Arab world, Russia, China, Malaysia and the United States. It is represented in collections of the National Galleries of Jordan and Malaysia and the British Museum.