Palestinian artist Malak Mattar, age 22, paints powerfully expressionist faces, figures, and semi-abstract designs. She first started painting at age 13, during the 51-day Israeli military assault on Gaza in 2014. Forced to stay inside for her own safety, Malak says, “I felt a compelling need to release all my negative energy—fear, anxiety, and sheer terror.”
She started painting with school art supplies, using basic watercolour on paper. A world of self-expression opened for her.
Unable to leave Gaza due to the Israeli blockade, Malak showed her paintings to the world through social media, on Instagram and Facebook. On her fourteenth birthday, she began offering her originals for sale to buyers around the world. Within two years, she became financially independent. Mattar’s artwork soon garnered interest from galleries beyond Palestine. Her artwork has been featured in many individual and group exhibitions in Jerusalem, France, Spain, Turkey, Costa Rica, India, England, and the United States, including the Art under Siege exhibit at the Rayburn House, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Malak also excelled academically, achieving the highest grade average in the Gaza Strip in her senior year of high school, and the second highest grade average in all of Palestine—the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She won a full scholarship to Aydin University in Turkey, where she currently lives.
Malak now paints in both acrylic and oils on canvas. The motifs of her paintings range from visceral feelings to dream visions to abstract concepts. One of her best-known paintings features a woman with an ocean-blue face and a meditative expression, her profile emerging, like the dark side of the moon, from a vivid orange planet. The whorls of her curly hair encircle the planet. with some curls breaking free to float in space. This painting was chosen as the cover art for the book We Are Not Numbers, a book featuring the narratives of young Palestinian adults about their experiences under siege.
Recent highlights of Malak’s career include a tour of the United States in 2020, including speaking engagements on college campuses—Yale University, Smith College, Manhattan College, UMass Boston, and others. Recent exhibits include a solo exhibition at the Cultural House in Frieburg, Germany, a group exhibition at the Museum of the Palestinian People in WA, DC, and a group exhibition in Einhoven, Holland, titled Post Colonization (all in 2020). The highlight of this year was the artwork titled ‘My Skin Is Not a Sin’ feature at Vogue Italia.
In 2021, Malak published her first book, ‘Grandma’s Bird’, an autobiographical children’s story that describes how a young girl in Gaza learns to control her fears through creativity, finding freedom even under occupation—and, ultimately, a way out to the wider world. Published by the UK-based Hands Up Project, a percentage of proceeds go to the project, which helps children in difficult circumstances, including Palestine, use language enhanced through creativity, performance, and collaborative interaction.
Malak conducted a lecture called art and social justice at Yale art school and SCSU university in the USA as well Pontifica Bolivariana university in Columbia. Malak had a group exhibition in a central gallery in London called P21 gallery with very renowned palestinian artists. In addition, an original painting was sold in the biggest auction house in Qatar called Albahie. The highlight of this year was the July cover feature of GQ middle east as well titled as the most prominent Gen Z palestinian artist in the artworld. Malaks paintings are collected by known arab and western collectors world wide.
“I strive to be an artist and ambassador for Palestinian people all over the world,” Malak says. She adds, “Every human being should be able to live in peace no matter what their origins are. The real victims are the children. If they survive war, they also have to survive after the war.”
In 2022, Malak had a long exhibitions and talks tour in Italy. A major solo exhibition in Museum Della Citta in Rimini and Solo exhibition in Casa Internazonal Della Donne in Rome, two exhibitions in Naples and Bresica. Malak has been featured in the headlines of Internazionale and Manifesto.
Malak is becoming one of the most proiminant Gen-Z palestinian artists says GQ Middle East.