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PALESTINIAN artist Malak Mattar has called for protests against decisions by France and Britain to refuse her a visa to attend exhibitions of her own work.
The Gazan artist said on Monday the decisions showed “that the hatred of Palestinians and the ambition to keep us from travelling and living normal lives is shared by more than just Israel.”
Ms Mattar’s work has been exhibited in a number of countries across the world, including India and the US, but she hasn’t been able to see her own work outside Palestine.
And, she said: “I’m afraid I won’t ever be able to."
However, she remained defiant, declaring that, despite the visa refusals by the two countries, she will “never stop creating art.”
Ms Mattar first started painting in 2014 at the age of 16 as a means to escape her “fears and worries” during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
She described her paintings as “like a diary” and said she wanted people to see the true face of Gaza through her work — “the nice aspects and the suffering aspects” to counter the dark images of war and occupation shown in the media.
Ms Mattar, who is currently studying in Istanbul, Turkey, condemned British authorities who she claimed accused her of lying about her student status on her application form.
She said: “I was always told that, ‘once you are out of Gaza, you will be free.’
“Getting out of Gaza was a dream for me, a dream in which I would be able to study and progress with my art […] Gaza was indeed a cage, but I never thought that the world was just a bigger cage for many people, including myself.”
A Home Office spokesman told the Star “The onus is on the individual to provide relevant information and, if they don’t, the application is refused.”
The Palestinian artist explained that she had begun the visa application process in order to attend two exhibitions in Paris and Avignon. Despite providing all the relevant documentation, , however, she was refused entry.
“I knew I would've had a great and warm welcome from my friends in France,” Ms Mattar said.
“My dream is to just have the ability to be present with my paintings and attend my exhibition."
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