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Gaza sculptor displays handicapped limbs, inspired by the loss of cripples

Palestinian artist Khalid Hussein’s sculptures of human organs are on display at a Gaza exhibition he calls “I Miss You Very Much”, inspired by the loss felt by crippled people, including victims of the conflict with Israel. The place has a large number of cripples. It has become a phenomenon, so I wanted to work on the issue and reflect it artistically,” Hussain, 46, told Reuters.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said that in 2019, Gaza’s population of two million people had at least 1,600 disabilities. Assalama Charitable Society, which looks after the injured and disabled, said 532 Gazans lost their limbs in the conflict.

Palestinian artist Khalid Hussein works in his workshop on a sculpture resembling a mutilated leg, drawing attention to the plight of the disabled, whose numbers have increased due to the ongoing conflict with Israel in Gaza City (Source: Reuters/Ibrahim Abu Mustafa)

Seven sculptures of Hussein’s organs were displayed at the Gaza Art Gallery this month. Life-size sculptures are made from clay and then cast in other materials, such as bronze or concrete, and create a haunting image in the small gallery space. In one two legs are seen standing side by side, the big toe of one is gently bent on the other leg. Another depicts a barefoot walking out from under a rug lying on top of a calf.

A foot pictured next to a mirror is a reference to a medical technique that uses vision to treat pain one can feel in their missing limbs. Hussein’s work is intended to draw attention to the suffering of those injured in protests in 2018 and 2019 along Gaza’s border with Israel, which imposes tighter sanctions on the area run by the Islamist Hamas terrorist group. Palestinian health officials said at least 200 people were killed and thousands injured in the demonstrations.

UN investigators said more than 120 people had a limb amputated. Israel said its troops opened fire to protect the border from infiltration and attacks by armed militants. But the work explores the loss of a limb regardless of cause. One of his sculptures depicts the left leg that 21-year-old Ahmed Abu Daken lost in a car accident as a child.

“I didn’t expect that someone would take what I had lost as inspiration and turn it into an artwork that would present it to the world,” said Abu Daken, who played on a disabled football team. “I showed the community that I have ambitions and dreams and that I can fulfill them.”

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