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'As Long As There Is Hope In Our Hearts, We Will Achieve The Dream': Artist Community Mourns Palestinian Painter Heba Zaqout

Palestinian artist Heba Zaqout was killed in an Israeli attack along with her husband and children on October 13. The artistic community in Gaza grieves the loss of Zaqout, a visual artist committed to amplifying the Palestinian narrative through her craft.

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Palestinian artist Heba Zaqout
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“As long as there is hope in our hearts, we will achieve the dream, we will move forward, and difficulties will not stop in our paths. Let us enter the race of life and achieve victory with our resolve, as despair and surrender are not of our shame,” - Heba Zaqout

Palestinian artist Heba Zaqout was killed in an Israeli attack along with her husband and children on October 13. The artistic community in Gaza grieves the loss of Zaqout, a visual artist committed to amplifying the Palestinian narrative through her craft.

“No no no no no. I’m just learning this. My dear friend and artist Heba Zaqout was killed with her husband and children on October 13,” Palestinian poet, Mosab Abu Toha, said in a post on Instagram. “Heba contributed to a special issue about Palestinian poetry from Gaza that I co-edited two years ago. I will be sharing some of her artwork that she shared with me. I’m sad and angry.”

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Mosab Abu Toha, who had previously worked on a special profile of Palestinian poetry for Peripheries Magazine with Heba Zaqout, said she had then written to him saying, “I hope this will help me spread my artwork. I need to sell some of my works in order to rebuild my destroyed house.”

From minarets, domes and churches to olive trees and cactus, her acrylic artwork became a symbol of Palestinian identity and resistance over the years.

The olive tree, she wrote in her Instagram post, had always held a special place for her, “When I was young, the olive harvest season was very special to me. Family members used to gather with me and pick olives. My mother then stores them with lemon slices and peppers to keep them all year round.”

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Born in 1984 in Gaza, she obtained a diploma in graphic design from Gaza Training College in 2003 and specialised in fine arts, graduating from Al-Aqsa University in 2007. In addition to her role as a public school teacher, Heba Zaqout showcased her artwork in various exhibitions. In 2021, she hosted a solo exhibition titled, “My Children in Quarantine”.

Through her art work, Zaqout sought to convey the struggles faced by Palestinians, especially women, and their quest for hope amidst adversity. Her vibrant art painted a picture of “happy dreams”, “love”, “hope” and “peace”, the people of Gaza yearned for.

“Let your hopes bloom as the cactus blooms! Don't be heartbroken and let your hopes soar in the sky of life.. For as light rises from the darkness of dawn, and as cactus grows from the thorns of a flower, one day will come and all your dreams and all wishes will come true..,” she wrote as a caption to one of her Instagram posts.

In one of her last posts on social media, Heba Zaqout's distress and urgency were palpable in her words.

“O Allah, we entrust You with hearts shattered by separation. O Allah, mend our broken hearts, grant us patience in the face of your judgment and fate. Be our strength, stay by our side, fortify our patience, and reward us for our enduring spirit. O Allah, unite our fragile hearts, as they depend solely on You,” she said.

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As Israel’s war on Gaza rages on, over 21,000 people have been killed and over 55,000 injured with no end in sight.

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