Famed Scottish painter Peter Howson has drawn many sufferings, from the aftermath of Kosovo war to the bloodshed of Bosnia’s massacres. But nothing was like his latest collection on war-ravaged Gaza.
"I have spoken to people who have been in Gaza since the ceasefire," Howson told The Times on Wednesday, February 11.
"It is like the aftermath in an earthquake zone."
The longtime war artist was not in Gaza when the coastal enclave was being ravaged by the Israeli war machine for 22 consecutive days, killing more than 1,350 people, half of them women and children.
Some 21,100 homes, 1,500 factories, 25 mosques, 31 government buildings and scores of schools were also destroyed by the air, sea and ground offensive.
Howson, who was the official war artist in the 1993 Bosnian war, has already finished hundreds of sketches on Gaza, each is more gruesome than the other.
"Images come to me, like you wouldn’t believe," he says.
"I’ve got millions inside my head, it’s like I ask and they come pouring out."
In one painting, he drew a figure in agonizing pain. In another, children are fleeing some unseen horror. In a third, a figure sorrowfully carrying a broken body.
"This picture – you even have the mosque in there, with the bombs going off all around it," he explains.
One of the pictures shows a couple embracing, but Howson says the subject in his mind while painting was also about death and horror.
"It’s actually a dying pregnant woman."
"Innocents are Suffering"
Nothing is puzzling Howson like the title for his Gaza collection.
"Unholy Land"? "Samson in Gaza"? "David and Goliath?" he keeps scratching his head.
"The people who are suffering here are the innocents. That’s what we are saying," maintains Howson.
"The innocents are suffering and Israel cannot get away from that. These aren’t people who want war."
Howson has been to Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) on pilgrimage three times during the past four years and in each time he saw another glimpse of people’s torment.
In his last trip weeks before the Israeli onslaught, je met with George Sa’adeh, the Christian Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem.
Sa’adeh’s 12-year-old daughter was shot dead by an Israeli soldier.
To the Scottish artist, the story of Sa’adeh depicts Palestinians’ endless sufferings under the yoke of the Israeli occupation.
"He is the most courageous man I’ve met. He wants to forgive, and I don’t know how he can."
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)