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Palestinian artist uses prison days to draw paintings

A Palestinian graffiti artist on 1 July 2021 [Marihan Al-Khalidi/Anadolu Agency]
A Palestinian graffiti artist on 1 July 2021 [Marihan Al-Khalidi/Anadolu Agency]

While spending eight months in an Israeli prison, Palestinian artist Mohammad Aziz Atef, 26, took graffiti art to the next level, by using coffee and other simple materials to paint on the walls of his prison cell and the available paper, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency to mark World Youth Skills Day on Friday, Atif, who recently completed his sentence, said drawing paintings gave him a cause to survive dark days inside the jail.

"These paintings and my skill were my way to save myself inside the jail. The jail is a well-structured space to kill you with your energy, since there is no way to give this energy to the universe, so it can kill you," he said.

Sitting in the living room at his home in Ramallah, surrounded by tens of paintings, Atef said these paintings acted as a lifesaver for him.

The artist, who used to paint graffiti on the walls using fine Arabic calligraphy found himself without a brush and paints when he was imprisoned. But he decided to continue with his passion, by using whatever material was available in the prison cell.

Atif was arrested last year in November by the Israeli army from his home in Birzeit town, north of Ramallah in the central West Bank. He was sentenced to eight months in jail due to his activities that were categorised as "threatening security".

READ: Calls for sending medical delegation to oversee health of Palestinian prisoners in Israel

Out of jail now, just a few days ago, he is now working to launch a gallery that will include his works in jail.

Israeli prison authorities do not allow any special tools for painting. So Atif was struggling to get papers, either by buying them at high prices from the jail canteen or smuggling them from outside.

Atif said for colours and drawing the image, he used dry pens, pencils, note paper as a ruler, and coffee to paint hundreds of his works. He used highly concentrated coffee, as a pigment to change the colour of the papers.

These paintings tell different stories either about the Palestinian cause or the families of his fellow prisoners in jail.

"I spent the nights drawing, painting in my prison cell under a table lamp. I painted the names of my fellow prisoners and their families, with poems related to their special days and sent them as gifts when the families came to visit them. This was making me happy, this saved me mentally and emotionally," he told Anadolu Agency.

Atef expressed himself through 53 paintings, 13 of which were confiscated by the jail administration during inspections.

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