Sometimes art can illuminate an artists life and a larger world issue without being preachy or editorial. With simplicity and grace, the art of Hani Zurob illustrates some of the issues that roil the Middle East without being political or angry. He uses his art to tell the story of his life, and in doing so helps others to understand some of the turmoil that families living through the ongoing struggle between Israel and Palestine face. Here is his statement he wrote that was posted on oneart.org*:
“The idea of this project occurred when my son Qoudsi started to learn to speak. When I used to accompany him and his mother to Charles De Gaulle airport in 2009, he surprised me with the question, “Daddy why don’t you come with us to Jerusalem?” Holding an identity card from Gaza, it would be hard for him to grasp my incapability of never being able to travel with them.
Qoudsi, like all other children in his age, is selective when it comes to which toys he wants to play with. He subconsciously uses them to express his thoughts and concerns. I notice that he increasingly chooses to play with transportation toys, in his belief that there has to be a kind of transportation that can get us together to his grandfather’s house in Jerusalem. Once, he suggested that we should take his small car, and in another time, he wanted to put me in his travelling suitcase, and once he wanted me to ride with him his bicycle after he learned how to ride it. Yet, he always chooses the plane, which is also his preferred seat on carousels when he sees one. His search is restless, and every time he travels to Jerusalem, I feel he matures and his thoughts become more developed. He still comes to me with new toys and solutions, and his selection changes with his growing thoughts and with his increasing physical abilities to use his toys.
Through the use of oil and acrylic paint and other mediums, I try to create a world which is composed of three worlds: exile where the artist lives (the father), and who appears in the paintings as the sole living human being by the depiction of the son who is portrayed in a relatively small scale in contrast to his surroundings. The second world concerns Qoudsi himself, as he visually appears and in his manner of showing his feelings through the use of his toys and his interactions with them. The third world is one of space, where we come from, which is depicted through walls, and multilayered backgrounds, as symbolic traces of the complex life that does not enable Qoudsi and me to meet. Yet, it is in my construction of a virtual world where a space for such a meeting occurs.
After each trip to Jerusalem and the collection of a new toy to his already filled cupboard, and with each painting where we try to find our ground, Qoudsi still anticipates our trip together, and so do I. Until he realizes the reality that was forced upon us, we will keep playing the waiting game and learning flying lessons.” Hani Zurob
*Originally I had written that he had given an interview. This was actually a statement that the artist had written. I’m sorry for the error. Corrected on 4/29/2014.