Malak Mattar

“My art has always been a great way to connect with people outside my country, Palestine.  Living in Gaza, I was never able accept the many invitations from around the world because there were too many hindrances.”

Grave of Dreams exhibition

Thanks to support from The Westhill Foundation and the dedication of Greenbelter Peter Bigg, we invited 19-year-old Gazan painter Malak Mattar to come to Greenbelt 2018, to mount an exhibition of her work called The Grave of Dreams – telling the story of her upbringing and life in her blockaded homeland, so often viewed with suspicion and fear.

At the eleventh hour, Malak herself was refused her visa to travel by the British authorities. (2018, proved a difficult summer for festivals looking to bring in artists from overseas and especially from the Middle East, as the Government’s hostile environment bit hard.)

Malak’s exhibition went ahead (after fifteen months of planning) and she was able to speak via Skype with those who attended.

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'Greenbelt', the Painting

Encouraged by the love and interest she received from festivalgoers in her absence, Malak painted a new work entitled ‘Greenbelt’, which is now in the UK.

“For ‘Greenbelt’, I painted a girl (representing myself) embracing one of my Sufi paintings as an indication of the connectedness between me and my art.”

‘Greenbelt’ has been reproduced as a limited edition (of 125 high) resolution print (570mm x 800mm). All the prints have been signed and numbered by Malak.

They are now for sale at £250 each. Once this run of prints are complete, the majority of Malak’s further education costs in Turkey will have been paid for.

For further information and ordering, please contact

'Greenbelt', the Painting

The story of Malak and Greenbelt

Following a trip to Palestine, Greenbelter Peter Bigg urged us to consider bringing Malak, her work and her story to the festival.

The Westhill Foundation also gave us a grant to enable us to stage the work as well as possible. We secured the use of the beautiful Tapestry Suite at Boughton House to stage the exhibition. And we appointed art-in-conflict curator James Walmsley to curate and hang the exhibition.

Here’s what Malak wrote about her work coming to Greenbelt:

“Outside of Palestine, I have never seen an exhibition of my work, although people have sent me pictures of my works in their homes. Britain refused my visa applications in 2018.  It felt really hard and depressing for me to accept this cruel decision, as I really dreamt about being present with my paintings at Greenbelt Festival since they had organised everything perfectly.”

The story of Malak and Greenbelt