“Wake up, my son! I bought toys for you, please wake up!’”.
Those were the words of Sahir Salman Abu Namous’ father on their way to the hospital. Four-year-old Sahir was already dead, with half his head blown away by an Israeli shrapnel. An Israeli warplane had bombed his family home in the Tal Al-Zaatar neighborhood in Northern Gaza on the July 11, 2014. Gazans were only three days into the war and already counted over 130 casualties, among whom 21 were children, in a bloodshed that would see over 2,000 Palestinians killed in 51 days.
Also Read: Hundreds Killed in War-Battered #Gaza
The death of Sahir was what motivated Kerry Beall, an artist from Brighton UK, to start ‘Beyond Words‘, an art project which seeks to paint the portrait of those who have lost their lives in Palestine last summer. Speaking to Global Voices Online, Beall explained how it hit her.
It all started when I read the story of Sahir Abu Namous, in a news tweet on Twitter. One of his relatives was explaining how he had died. He was only four. It wasn't another depersonalised report, it was real. It was a family member's plea of desperation and hopelessness. It was so raw,\5 in that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Beyond Words is trying to raise funds on Kickstarter in order to meet its £3,000 (US $4,711) by the end of July. With that money, Beall is planning on using it to “pay for materials, the portraits to be framed, help with getting them to Gaza, and providing an exhibition space to show them until they are collected or delivered.”
I think I'm probably not alone when I say I felt completely helpless. It's just so devastating, the sheer amount of innocent men, women and children's lives just evaporating. It's a tough and overwhelming thing to think about and I, perhaps like others, often disconnect from it it so I can function in my own life.
But that day, it struck a chord that I couldn't switch off from.
I felt compelled to do something, so I painted him. I had no idea what the response would be as it's such a sensitive topic.
I showed the portrait to his family and they loved it. It reinforced that urge to take action, so I've gone on to paint many more lives that have been lost.
Beall ended with a note of gratitude:
The reaction has been amazing, with every positive comment it reinforces the motivation I have for this project. I've been so fortunate along the way with people enthusiastic to help the project move forward. For example my friend Dan, who has been keen to get involved in spreading the word of the project, Simon and Robin from Bristol who produced the video.
Mohammed Zeyara who kindly shared the video for the project which has helped a great deal in spreading the word. A great feeling of warmth and support has been shown by the people of Palestine, and I feel I've made friends along the way with Iman, Shareef and DiaaMahmoud, who have shown invaluable support towards the project.
Here are some of the finished portraits so far. You can see more of them on the Beyond Words Facebook Page.