In 2009, Susan Johnson never thought the exhibit she had in mind would now be travelling throughout the United States, let alone that there would be an international community advocating showing the art in their own cities.
A Child’s View from Gaza is an exhibit put together in different after-school children’s centres throughout Gaza. These centres serve as therapy programs for the young children of Gaza who witnessed the destruction of Operation Cast Lead.
It’s been a long process for Johnson to get the artwork out from Gaza to the U.S., but in 2010 the art exhibit A Child’s View from Gaza began touring. By mid-2011, after a controversy in Oakland over the artwork, awareness of the gallery rose quickly.
Johnson went to Gaza in 2009, and after witnessing the trauma that the children of Gaza had been through, decided to work with the children’s centres to get the children’s art out to the international community.
Johnson and the children of Gaza had to face many obstacles throughout the process of formulating their artwork. Shortage of materials, due to strict border controls of the supplies that enter and leave the Gaza Strip, was a constant concern.
“They didn’t have paper, some of them only had crayons. I started to worry that it would be a hardship on them to follow my directions,” says Johnson.
The artwork made its way out of Gaza and was first shown in the U.S. in 2010.
Johnson had only shown the artwork in small galleries by this point, so there was little controversy over it. But, by the summer of 2011, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) was set to show the artwork in the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCA) in Oakland. This is where controversy began.
According to Johnson, a pro-Israeli lobby got word A Child’s View from Gaza was to be shown and pressured the museum to not show the exhibit.
“They said it shouldn’t be in a children’s museum, that children shouldn’t see it, even though children made it,” says Johnson.
This led to further awareness about the exhibit as the media began to pay attention.
“The fact that they were cancelled was on AOL, Democracy Now. People became aware of it,” says Johnson.
Johnson believes the importance here is that the exhibit received the attention it needed and made people aware of the horrors that were being faced by the children of Gaza.
“Children are usually honest. They really depict what happened during Operation Cast Lead — the horrors of it. The children’s feelings [and] emotions jump off the page,” says Johnson.
The importance of the exhibit being “a child’s view” cannot be expressed enough. Johnson believes it is because the exhibit is from a child’s view that it is accepted in our society.
“If the work were done by adults they would be accused of all kind of things, and it’s very difficult to do that with something a child has done,” she says.
Amal Musse, a student at the University of Manitoba, believes having the exhibit on campus will open discussion to a better understanding of what is happening in the region.
“People are more aware [now] rather than speaking and not knowing the facts,” she says.
This is exactly what Johnson hopes to accomplish through the exhibit.
“It’s my contribution trying to wake up the people of the world,” says Johnson.
A Child’s View from Gaza will be on display at the University of Manitoba’s Gallery of Student Art from Nov. 28 – Dec. 2.