Bringing memory to life: One sculptor’s journey through blockade

12 January 2020
Ranna Al Rimlawi 24 years-old passionately works on one of her sand sculptores at her home in Gaza City, Gaza. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Ibrahim Abu Usheeba

Ranna Al Ramlawi is a 24-year old Palestine refugee from Gaza. Her father suffers from Parkinson's disease, leaving him unable to move or work. Ranna’s mother is a teacher at an UNRWA school in the besieged strip. One of nine children, Ranna was unable to complete a university education because of the tough financial straits her family was in.

Ranna Al Rimlawi 24 years-old passionately works on one of her sand sculptures at her home in Gaza City, Gaza. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Ibrahim Abu Usheeba

Despite these challenges Ranna managed to create a window of hope through art. Her fierce determination to overcome her challenges led her to turn her frustration and anger into expression through the creation of sand sculptures.

“I always loved to draw but was too shy and private to display my talent. One day I was so angry and sad that I went out into the yard. It was a rainy day and I started playing with the wet sand around me. Later, my family and I were really excited at the final product!” Ranna recalled.

An unfinished sculpture of a refugee family. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Ibraheem Abu Usheeba.
An unfinished sculpture of a refugee family. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Ibraheem Abu Usheeba.

“My sculptures symbolize a message of resistance and tell the story of my peoples’ suffering and loss. This is my main goal; to keep the plight of Palestine refugees alive,” she explains. 

The blockade on the Gaza Strip limits access to goods and materials that could improve and enhance Ranna’s skills. Also, due to her limited financial means, Ranna cannot afford preservative materials for her sculptures. Now, every time she has a new idea, Ranna has to recycle an older sculpture because she doesn’t have enough preservative material to keep both sculptures.

“Sometimes a sculpture can take me up to three days to finish a sculpture. I’ve found myself forced to destroy an older one to build a new one because space and materials are limited. It’s very painful. It consumes physically and psychologically. I wish I could keep them all,” Ranna added.

Ranna, like other Gazan youth, has successfully developed her talent and potential, against the odds. “Sculpting is my friend, the only way to express all of my anger, frustration and energy. I hope to one day find support to develop this talent and to participate in international exhibitions,” Ranna said. “Sometimes I feel so connected to these sculptures, every single one is unique and embodies memory or a state of mind of mine as I worked on it,” Ranna added.

One of Ranna sculptures created to embody the long journey of Palestine refugee families. © 2019 UNRWA photo.
One of Ranna sculptures created to embody the long journey of Palestine refugee families. © 2019 UNRWA photo.