Nidaa Badwan (Abu Dhabi, 17 April 1987) is a Palestinian artist and photographer, born in UAE.
1. Brief biography
2. DETAILED BIOGRAPHY
2. Her “100 Days of Solitude”
3. Her arrival in Italy and San Marino
4. Exhibitions and Activities in 2016
5. A New Project: “Autismo”
6. Exhibitions and Activities in 2017
7. Resources and Further Study
1. BRIEF BIOGRAPHY (Reading time: 1’)
- Nidaa Badwan is known for her artistic and peaceful protest about the condition of her people and for the international exhibitions of her “100 Days of Solitude” project, composing of photographic self-portraits. These pictures depict the artist in her room during her self-imposed exile, which started on November 13th, 2013 and lasted for twenty months. In her isolation, she condemned both the Hamas-Fatah conflict that has been raging for years in Palestine and in the Gaza Strip, and the rule of terror of Hamas, from which she has received various threats .
- Her story was reported in an interview with the New York Times , which showed one of her works in the front page. This accomplishment skyrocketed her fame to an international level, and she was cited by many other foreign newspapers (in Italy, the newspapers Avvenire  and Corriere della Sera , among many others, have featured articles about her). Even some television companies have covered her story, such as ZDF , France24  and SKY Art.
- After living for years in Palestine, Nidaa finally moved to the Republic of San Marino, where she also worked as a University professor at the University of Design of the Republic of San Marino .
- Now the artist lives in Italy.
- Her exhibitions have toured the world: Jerusalem, Montecatini Terme (Italy), Monte Grimano Terme (Italy), San Marino (San Marino), Kolding (Denmark), Berlin (Germany), New York and Miami (USA), Dubai (UAE) for the “The 2016 Middle East & North Africa Sovereign Art Prize Finalists”  and in many other Italian cities (like Ravenna and Forte dei Marmi). In 2017 Valencia (Spain), Messina (Italy) and Berlin (Germany).
- On November 20th, 2016, the artist was among the guests of the event “War Memories – Remembering Maria Grazia Cutuli”, hosted by Corriere della Sera . There, she was interviewed by Davide Frattini.
- On November 27th, she presented a new work, a painting commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of San Marino: the theme was freedom, precisely the one lived in the small Republic.
- On March 1st, 2017, she was a speaker in the UNESCO conference “Cultural heritage and identity: an Arab youth perspective”, held in Carthage (Tunisia).
- In April 2017, the municipality of Monte Grimano Terme, Italy, granted Nidaa with a space for herself right in the historical center of this little town, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful ones among the many burghs of Italy. This place will be her “new room”, a studio-atelier where the artist will work on new project and propose artistic activities for the community. The space was inaugurated in May 2017, with the presence of various authorities, including Mayor Luca Gorgolini, former Minister of Education and Culture of the Republic of San Marino Giuseppe Maria Morganti and the Consul of Palestine in Italy Nidal Thawabi
1. Her “100 Days of Solitude”
“100 Days of Solitude” is a series of self-portraits shot by the artist inside of her little and colorful bedroom in Gaza, where she exiled herself voluntarily for over 20 months, starting from November 2013, after she was harassed by Hamas militias while she was setting up an art exhibition. The reason behind this aggression was the fact that she wasn’t wearing a veil.
Through this voluntary exile from her community, she sought to denounce the condition of isolation and the lack of freedom that characterize the daily life of the Palestinian people, especially women. In such a strongly militarized territory, to exercise one’s basic rights is a true challenge that renews itself day after day.
For 20 months, her little bedroom became the place where she lived and worked, becoming the background for over 25 self-portraits.
Her room of isolation, of self-imposed imprisonment, is only nine square meters large, with a single window and a light bulb hanging from the electric wires. The walls are painted a colorful aquamarine, and one of them is covered by a rainbow of painted egg boxes.
In these works the artist wears a costume, she rearranges the frame and shots self-portraits where her face is hard to recognize. These compositions recall the still-lives of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, and Jacques-Louis David’s theatrical scenes.
(A fun fact: Nidaa got to know Caravaggio only after her arrival in Italy, because everyone seemed to draw parallelisms between her photos and the works of the famous Italian painter.)
But there are some scenes that the artist doesn’t want to see: her war-torn surroundings. She didn’t leave her room even during the fifty days of war between Israel and Hamas in Summer 2014. Her family ran off from her village in the center of the Arab Strip and sought shelter near to the city of Gaza; Nidaa stayed under the bombings.
During these weeks, she worked on a new self-portrait where she spilled on her head a bucket full of water and red paint, in a sort of macabre overturn to the viral «ice bucket challenge» to spread awareness on the bloody conflict that surrounded her.
“This space – she says, while caressing her camera– gave me the freedom that I couldn’t find outside. A freedom from the dullness and ugliness of Gaza, from the Israelite siege, from the impositions of the men of Hamas.”.
The first photo she took depicts her while peeling onions and crying. “In the first months of self-imprisonment I contemplated committing suicide. In addition to food, my mother started leaving in front of my door little tasks for me to fulfill: cutting tomatoes, making salad”, she tells. It’s up to the viewer to interpret whether her tears are rolling down due to the onion, or for the start of her isolation.
Another work, which the artist herself regards as the most important and significant one in her whole series, is the one where she picks up an oud and she imposes silence to a combative rooster (see picture).
In one of her interviews she affirms: “In Arabic symbolism, the rooster represents the man. It’s a masculine energy that wants to silence me. I have an Oud with me, a middle-eastern instrument. With my gesture, I invite the rooster to shut up and let me be free to express myself and my art.”
By the end of January 2015, she should have participated to her exhibition “100 Days of Solitude” that was brought to East Jerusalem and West Bank by the French Cultural Center, but Israeli authorities didn’t allow her to leave the Strip. So, the organizers of the event set up a Skype call to Gaza instead.
Unfortunately, as Nidaa recalls, “the lights went out, so no event. I had the same problem in my house. That’s why I use natural light: it’s more reliable, and I cannot interrupt the relationship between the Sun and my bedroom.”
3. Her arrival in Italy and San Marino
On September 18th 2015, the artist was finally able to leave the Gaza Strip and arrive in Italy. The municipalities of Monte Grimano Terme and Montecatini Terme had sent her an invitation earlier that year, proposing her to personally show her works and her political protest in the country. This visit was made possible thanks to the diplomatic work of Father Ibrahim Faltas, who’s responsible for the Status Quo in the Church of Nativity, in Betlehem. He’s known especially for having participated in the harsh vicissitudes of the Israelo-Palestinian conflict during the armed siege of the same church in 2002..
Other important figures behind her first voyage in Europe were Antonella Lombardo the Councilman for Culture of Montecatini Terme, Bruno Ialuna. Thanks to their work, the world premiere of Nidaa’s complete series was exhibited in the Montecatini Museum of Contemporary Art “Mo.Ca.”. It was then that she received the annual prize “Harmony Between Peoples”.
After that, she moved to Monte Grimano Terme (Pesaro-Urbino), near the Sammarinese border. Her presence started off the project “The Town of Free Arts” . Nidaa was the perfect endorser for this project: through her experience and her art, she spread a strong message throughout the world and raised awareness on the social and cultural isolation felt by the young people of Gaza.
“Nidaa is a symbol of freedom, but first and foremost she’s a symbol of how freedom is actually an inner condition. We can feel free everywhere, if our soul is free. Nidaa and her small 3 by 3 metre room showed us that this statement is true”, declared two other key figures in Nidaa’s voyage to Italy, the Mayor of Monte Grimano Terme, Luca Gorgolini and the President of the cultural association “L’Arte di Essere”, Riccardo Geminiani..
In the following days, she was one of the relators of the event “The New Subversives” that took place in Lugo di Romagna, once again in Italy.
Before her scheduled yet risky return to Gaza, Nidaa arranged a meeting with the Secretary of Culture of the Republic of San Marino Giuseppe Maria Morganti who, in collaboration with local humanitary associations, was able to grant Nidaa a stay in the little Republic, “The Land of Freedom”. Nidaa, in fact, has started a collaboration with the University of Design of San Marino..
In an interview upon her arrival to San Marino in September 2015, the young artist declared: “What brings me close to San Marino is the fact that San Marino and I speak the same language: freedom.” .
In a land that is founded upon the values and the history of freedom, the Secretary of Culture Morganti affirmed: “You represent a particular symbol, because you fight for rights with artistical means, not with warfare.”
4. Exhibitions and Activities in 2016
Since February 2016, the artist has been touring some prestigious European and international museums. Her works were shown in the Trepholt Museum in Kolding, Denmark, in a collective exhibition that ended on October 23rd of the same year, and whose advertising poster featured a work by Nidaa.. Some other stops in her tour were the SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin (Germany), where she held an exhibition which lasted from March to May 2016, then from the 29th to the 31st of July she stopped at Couthures-sur-Garonne (France) for the “Festival International du Journalisme Vivant”.
Again in July 2016, the World Bank in Washington bought 6 of her works for its artistic program. In September 2016, her exhibition landed in the United States, more precisely in New York, in the Postaster Gallery, while in December her works were featured in the event Untitled, in Miami Beach. In October 2016, one of her pictures was shown in Dubai (UAE), as she was handpicked as one of the best 30 artists participating in the “2016 Sovereign Middle East & North Africa Art Prize Finalists”.
In November 20th, 2016, Nidaa participated to the event “Stories of War” dedicated to Maria Grazia Cutuli, an Italian Journalist that was killed fifteen years before in Afghanistan. The meeting was held in Milan and it was hosted by Corriere della Sera, one of the most important Italian newspapers. There, Nidaa spoke about her story and the harsh conditions under which the Palestinian people live.
On November 27th, 2016, Nidaa presented a new work of hers, commissioned by the Secretary for Culture of San Marino on the theme of liberty: it’s a painting titled “City Lights”, whose peculiarity is that of “changing its face” whether we look at it in daylight or in darkness. The painting is now exhibited in the little Republic of San Marino.
5. A New Project: “Autism”
It is a series of 25 paintings inspired by the drawings of the true protagonist of this project, Abood, her autistic brother.
During the presentation, Nidaa told the audience a very personal story:
“My brother Abood is 9 years younger than me, he has autism and he lives in Gaza. Stepping into this world and exploring it from within is a rich and unique experience. To penetrate in the meanderings of this situation is neither difficult, nor easy. Abood needs nothing, he doesn’t need words, he only needs a piece of paper and a pencil. He draws his own world, and usually he asks me: “How do you find it?”. To his question, I spontaneously reply: “Nice! I want to see more.”.
As time went by, I started to observe and interpret what his drawings revealed. In his works, there are many crying faces, usually smoking a cigarette and surrounded by curvy patterns. In a sole fragment of a painting, there is harbored the contradiction between sadness and happiness. Abood has battled with solitude, the same feeling I have experienced for two years. During my isolation, he would wait by the door to make me a surprise with a handful of drawings he made around midnight. Each time he saw me crying, he would give me a new painting. He knows that this makes me vibrate, I imitate what he does, I can follow the curvy patterns and draw like he does. I needed more of these sketches, and even more. I became autistic just like him, I learned how to walk through his world,
I knew how to speak to him, how to make mistakes in the sentences’ structure and to mutter when I speak. This world is very rich, if the poor ones like us know the truth.”
6. Exhibitions and Activities in 2017
Since the beginning of the year 2017, Nidaa has already inaugurated two exhibitions in Italy, one held in Ravenna, in January, and the other in Forte dei Marmi, in March, set in the prestigious location of Villa Bertelli .
Around the same time, three of her works were shown in the 21C Museum Hotel of Bentonville (USA) , in the collective exhibition “Seeing Now”.
In March 2017, she was a speaker in the UNESCO conference “Cultural heritage and identity: an Arab youth perspective” that took place in Carthages, Tunisia. .
In April 2017, the municipality of Monte Grimano Terme, Italy, granted Nidaa with a space for herself right in the historical center of this little town, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful ones among the many burghs of Italy. This place will be her “new room”, a studio-atelier where the artist will work on new project and propose artistic activities for the community.
The space was inaugurated in May 2017, with the presence of various authorities, including Mayor Luca Gorgolini, former Minister of Education and Culture of the Republic of San Marino Giuseppe Maria Morganti and the Consul of Palestine in Italy Nidal Thawabi .
In June 2017 he participated in the “White Night of the University of San Marino”, where in a public performance she realized a sculpture dedicated to the theme of femininity .
Also in June 2017 he is in the collective exhibition “Ri-creazioni”, held in Prato (Italy). In addition to Nidaa’s works, works by great artists such as Omar Galliani, Yasunari Nakagomi, Todd Williamson and many others, were exhibited.
From September 2017 to January 2018, some of Nidaa’s works are in exhibition in Valencia (Spain), in the prestigious IVAM (Institut Valencià d’Art Modern), at the “En Rebeldía”, with some of the greatest revolutionary artists in the Arab world.
From 7 to 9 October 2017, the exhibition arrives in beautiful Messina, in Sicily (Italy). 200 people are present at the inauguration conference, hundreds and hundreds of visitors will visit the impressive headquarters of the Botanical Garden “P. Castelli” to admire the works in these 3 days.
From November 11 the works will be on display at the Gorki Teather in Berlin.
7. Sources and links for further study
1 ^ Jodi Rudoren, “Isolation as art in Gaza”, in New York Times, 28 febbraio 2015.
2 ^ Jodi Rudoren, A Gaza Artist Creates 100 Square Feet of Beauty, and She’s Not Budging, in The New York Times, February 27th, 2015.
3 ^ (it-IT) A Gaza autoritratti di una donna senza velo.
4 ^ (it-IT)
Davide Frattini, Gaza, la stanza chiusaGli autoritratti di Nidaa Badwan.
5 ^ nidaa badwan, 100 Tage Einsamkeit aspekte ZDFmediathek ZDF Mediathek, June 6th, 2015.
6 ^ (fr-FR) La photographe palestinienne Nidaa Badwan s’enferme pour ne plus voir Gaza – France 24, in France 24, 10 maggio 2015.
7 ^ (it-IT) Università: le comunità al centro della Design Week, in SMTV San Marino, July 11th, 2016.
8 ^ (en-US) The 2016 Sovereign Middle East & North Africa Art Prize Finalists Released – Sovereign Art Foundation, in Sovereign Art Foundation, September 26th, 2016.
9 ^ (it-IT) Gli autoritratti di Nidaa Badwan«Quattordici mesi in una camera cercando la libertà», in Corriere della Sera.
10 ^ La fotografa Nidaa Badwan non è più da sola – Cronaca – il Tirreno, in il Tirreno, September 20th, 2015.
11 ^ Luca Galassi, “Dalla stanza di Gaza all’Italia: per Nidaa la reclusione è finita”, in Il Fatto Quotidiano, September 23rd, 2015.
12 ^ Luca Galassi, “Dalla Stanza di Gaza all’Italia: per Nidaa la reclusione è finita”, in Il Fatto Quotidiano, September 23rd, 2015.
13 ^ (it-IT) I NUOVI SOVVERSIVI con Lumera, Branca, Geminiani, Sibaldi, Badwaan, Cotza, Olivieri, Santamato, Azzok – [Lugo (RA)] – Arte di essere, in Arte di essere.
15 ^ (it-IT) Università: le comunità al centro della Design Week, in SMTV San Marino, July 11th, 2016.
16 ^ San Marino. Mostra fotografica “100 giorni di solitudine”, su Giornale.sm.
17 ^ (it-IT) Nidaa Badwan a San Marino: “Libera con la mia arte, in 10 metri quadri”, in SMTV San Marino, September 25th, 2015.
19 ^ SAVVY Contemporary e.V. .:. Laziness, on savvy-contemporary.com.
20 ^ (fr-FR) Couthures-sur-Garonne Festival du Journalisme Vivant: une révélation, in Le Républicain Marmande et Langon.
21 ^ Nidaa Badwan, in www.postmastersart.com.
22 ^ (en-US) Middle East and North Africa Art Prize – Sovereign Art Foundation, in Sovereign Art Foundation.
23 ^ (it-IT) “Sound Art” l’autismo si fa spettacolo al Titano, in SMTV San Marino, September 28th, 2016.
24 ^ (it – IT) Racconti di Guerra, in Sala Buzzati l’«artista di Gaza» e Albinati in Corriere della Sera, November 30rd, 2016
25 ^ (en – US) Regional conference on “Cultural heritage and identity: an arab youth perspective” on en.unesco.com. , March 2017.
26 ^ (it – IT) Palazzo Graziani: inaugura la mostra “Luci della Città” di Nidaa Badwan in SMTV San Marino, November 25th, 2016
27 ^ (it – IT) 8 marzo: a Forte dei Marmi gli autoritratti della palestinese Nidaa Badwan in ADNKronos, March 6th, 2017
28 ^ (it – IT) Riparte “Quattro chiacchiere al Caffè”: domani inaugura la mostra fotografica di Nidaa Badwan in Ravenna Notizie, January 19th, 2017
29 ^ (it – IT) Autoritratti di un’artista a Gaza in Sky Arte HD, September 23rd, 2015.
30 ^ (it – IT) Nidaa Badwan, il mondo in una stanza. A Gaza. in L’Espresso, May 13th, 2015.
31 ^ (en – US) Seeing Now – Showing at 21C Bentonville in 21C Museum Hotels, February 2017
32 ^ (it – IT) Monte Grimano Borgo delle Libere Arti in RAITRE, May 2017
33 ^ (it – IT) Speciale Notte Bianca UniRSM 2017 in SMTV San Marino, Juin 2017
«Nidaa pays a homage to the Italian singer Franco Battiato, giving him a work of hers as a gift.
Translation by Chiara Natali