Nidaa Badwan is a Palestinian artist from Gaza. In November 2013, she was harassed by some Hamas officers when she was working with some youth in an arts program and was questioned about why she was hanging out with males and why she was in jean overalls. She was forced to sign a paper saying she would not come out of her house unless she was traditionally dressed and behaved herself “properly.” She was physically hit by them for her “impertinence.”
The next day she refused to leave her room, where she has been for over a year where she has been creating photographs. “The moment I started to feel that my simplest rights were snatched away from me in Gaza, the besieged city I live in, I decided to abandon the world to create my own.” She takes photographs of herself in naturally lit compositions filled with her personal items and has been posting these images through social media. These crisp, jewel-like self-portraits— like crying while cutting onions, pouring a red liquid (blood?) over her in response to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, working in her studio, buttoning a man’s shirt surrounded by her rolled clothing— are painterly, vibrantly colorful, and classically arranged. She claims that in isolation in her secluded room, she has been able to attain greater freedom than what she had in the streets of Gaza. “Isolation gave me the ability to create a new language, every item in my room could tell a different story; the ladder, the clothes, and even the bed! I could change their colors, omit or add new items. I waited relentlessly every single day to catch the perfect moment so that I could depict new photos using the sunlight, photos that can be felt rather than seen.” This series of photographs she has named “100 Days of Solitude,” after Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Understanding this context of her work— the rich tapestry of her room and belongings contrasted with the chaos, violence, and repression outside her windows— makes her photographs incredibly powerful and poignant. She recently had a show of her photographs in Jerusalem, but of course, would not attend the opening.
Badwan’s website is www.nidaabadwan.com and she is presently trying to raise money for a larger studio on a crowd-funding source.
Badwan’s response to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.(Thanks to my sister-in-law SM for sharing this discovery with me.)