Four flower vases adorn the living room of Hossam al-Dabbus's home. Initially inconspicuous, a closer look reveals they are made of Israeli tank shells collected by war-scarred Gazans.
The refugee camp dweller has picked through the rubble of the coastal strip to turn the remains of a conflict that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis, into objects of art.
“I wanted to keep a souvenir, but my relatives and neighbours felt uncomfortable with them around, so I had the idea of painting them to make them beautiful,” the 33-year-old told AFP.
IN HIS HANDS, the twisted remnants have taken on a new life – shell casings covered in golden motifs, tail fins turned into the feet of a vase, the dull metal disappearing under an explosion of painted flowers.
“When my children grow up I’ll be able to show them these and tell them – here are remains of the 2014 war that left over 2,000 people dead, and this is how I transformed an instrument of death into a vessel of life, making these bombs into flower vases,” he said.
During the seven-week war which ended on August 26, the Israeli army fired countless missiles and tank shells at Gaza, and Hamas militants fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells at Israel.
“BEAUTY FROM DESTRUCTION“
To his great surprise, Dabbus, who lives in Gaza’s biggest refugee camp in Jabaliya and works in the honey business, found orders for his creations coming in.
To secure materials for his art, he went to see the police, who are controlled by the Islamist group Hamas – the de facto rulers of Gaza.
“When my children grow up I’ll be able to show them these”
“As dozens of people were asking me to decorate shells, the police gave me as many as I wanted, provided of course I only used them for my art,” he said.
Enthused, he took home his first batch of 20 projectiles, among them rockets, mortar shells and missiles, while taking care how he handled them.
“I don’t want people to think I’m running a weapons factory and have the Israelis bomb my house,” he said.
Khder Abu Nada, 32, whose cleaning business was razed during the war, has ordered a vase.
“I like the idea of making something beautiful from these devices which kill us: I will take the vase home and regularly put roses in it,” he promised.
“And may God bring us peace in Gaza.”
Adorned, used and diffused ammunition rounds painted by Palestinian artist
Mohammed al-Zamar seen in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
DABBUS HAS BIG PLANS: as well as selling his creations – he will not reveal the price – he also wants to put them on show.
Other people are also finding ways to repurpose these deadly devices, but on a much smaller scale.
In Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, Mohammed al-Zamar’s garden is strewn with shell cases and shrapnel which he recovered from his home after a bombing.
On one of the pieces he has written: “No to war, we’ve had enough.” Next to it is a map of historical Palestine.
“This is my message,” said Zamar.
“We love life, but the occupier (Israel) imposes death and destruction on us. I want to transform the Israeli war into an expression of the Palestinians’ irrepressible will to live.”
INSIDE HIS HOUSE, the 33-year-old waiter proudly shows off the rest of his creations: dozens of paintings, some adorned with casings from Israeli bullets or a key, the symbol of Palestinians forced to leave their homes in 1948 when Israel was established.
In the front of his house sits a large unexploded bomb dropped by an F-16 jet. Above it he has written out the names of all the children killed during the war, who according to the UN number around 500.
Zamar said the chemical which triggers the detonation head has been removed, but it could still be deadly.
“I don’t let my sons, aged seven and three, get too close.”