20th Century Art / Middle East

20th Century Art / Middle East

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 29. LAILA SHAWA | THE SOUK IN GAZA.


Lot Closed

October 27, 02:30 PM GMT


10,000 - 15,000 GBP

Lot Details



b. 1940



oil on canvas laid on board

48.5 by 70.5cm. 19 by 27½in.

framed: 58 by 80cm. 22¾ by 31½in.

Executed in 1965. 

This work is accompanied with certificate of authenticity signed by the Artist.  

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Collection of the Artist, Beirut 

Rashad Al Shawa collection, Gaza

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

This beautiful canvas by internationally acclaimed artist, Laila Shawa is of considerable historical significance within her artistic oeuvre. ‘The Souk’ was part of Shawa’s first solo exhibition in Gaza in 1965 entitled ‘Contrast and Contradictions’ – one year after her graduation from the Academy of Fine Art in Rome. Thereafter, it was to become part of the collection of Rashad Shawa, the Mayor of Gaza and also the artist’s father. It remained there, in Gaza, until the house was destroyed but was salvaged and relocated to Bethlehem.

Shawa is known for her bold colour palette, her illustrative renderings and the integral story telling of her work. Her paintings speak of political strife and in particular bring to the fore, the fate of children, families and in particular, women in Gaza. This early canvas marks the beginning of her mastery and application of bold colour, albeit, with a more subdued hand. This lends itself to the wistful quality that we perhaps don’t feel as evidently in her later works, which have gone through a noticeable evolution.

While her later works are stylistically laced with greater irony or humour and speak more directly to political realities and perceived injustices, Shawa’s early paintings are gentle, almost folkloric renderings that depict everyday local scenes. Within the context of her oeuvre, these become particularly nostalgic and poignant – a remembrance of better times or a hopeful longing for what could have been a very different way of living.

Shawa’s artistic range and ability is indeed broad: her mastery of paint and colour did not preclude an ability to capture narratives through photography and silk screening. Her pioneering work in these mediums have without question, helped to shape contemporary Palestinian art. It is, however, in her evolution as an artist that has enabled Shawa to take her place as a leading globally recognized artist. Moving from the ‘accepted’ medium of paint to alternative mediums to express her evolving style with bolder political messaging (as a female Arab artist no less) speaks to a brave fearless spirit. It is also important to highlight that Shawa is profoundly aware of the roles of women in Arab societies – living through the Intifadas, she saw the pivotal position women played in the movement in their multifaceted identities as mothers and workers but also active revolutionaries. In this sense her oeuvre is a reflection of the resilient Palestinian identity.

“Laila Shawa was one of the first Arab artists to successfully break through barriers in the West.” - Lawrence Joffe quoting Dr Venetia Porter, ‘Laila Shawa: still shaking people up’, The Middle East, February 2002, online

This painting is a rare work by the artist from the beginning of what was to become a significant globally recognised artistic career.