Resilience, joy and pride: Meet the ‘Wonder Women of Gaza’

Leyan is a 19-year-old medical student and professional dabkeh dancer. (Photo courtesy: Ovidiu Tataru/MSF)

Airstrikes, death tolls, disheveled buildings and overflowing hospitals often dominate headlines on Gaza. But after the bombs have exploded and the loved ones are buried, life, inevitably, resumes in the Palestinian enclave.

To Doctors Without Borders (MSF) employee and photographer Ovidiu Tataru, the strenuous conditions in the Gaza Strip - result of blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt - inspired the “Wonder Women of Gaza” project, a series of photographs featuring some of the enclave’s women posing in front of a gritty grey wall wearing the iconic Superman red cape.

While stuck in Jerusalem trying to get to his office in Gaza, Tataru said he started “thinking about these women...how their life can become a heroic path to cooking dinner, getting the water and electricity [working], and so on.”

READ ALSO: Stuck in the rubble: Gaza artist deploys frozen human figures

With this exhibition, Tataru hoped to give visitors a closer look at life in Gaza, highlighting the women of the enclave.

“There is a stereotype about Gaza, photographers go there to shoot images that they have already seen in the media,” he told Al Arabiya News.

“So, the last 30 or 40 years you see the same images of Gaza, just destruction, poverty, and so on, and people forget that there is something else there,” he said, adding that while it is important to show the images he talks about, “we tend to forget that it’s not only that.”

“It’s like a stereotype, like in movies when you talk about Islam we have some Kalashnikovs in the air, the same bloody images, and we should change that … and this was a way to change it.”

Tataru photographed 13 women, almost half of which are his colleagues and the rest were their family and friends.

READ ALSO: Painting a woman’s body: Gaza artist breaks the mold

They were given no direction on how to hold the cape but one: that the Superman logo be visible.

Some, like Nima Abukhousa, chose to hold it up in front of their face, while Leyan, pictured above, chose to wear it as a cape.

Nima Abukhousa lost her home in the latest war. She is nicknamed the ‘pain killer’ in the clinic she works in “because I keep the children from feeling pain.” (Photo courtesy: Ovidiu Tataru/MSF)

Nima Abukhousa lost her home in the latest war. She is nicknamed the ‘pain killer’ in the clinic she works in “because I keep the children from feeling pain.” (Photo courtesy: Ovidiu Tataru/MSF)

One of Tataru’s favorite pictures is the first he snapped in the series. A shy mother called Wissam was a challenge to photograph because of her timidness.

According to MSF, Wissam lives in Beit Lahia, one of areas most affected by the war. She is the proud mother of three university students. (Photo courtesy: Ovidiu Tataru/MSF)

According to MSF, Wissam lives in Beit Lahia, one of areas most affected by the war. She is the proud mother of three university students. (Photo courtesy: Ovidiu Tataru/MSF)

“There are young pretty girls to photograph, why photograph me?” Tataru recounted Wissam as saying. To which he replied saying: “Because you’re beautiful!”

Superman vs. Wonder Woman

While Wonder Woman matched the character he was trying to highlight in these women, he opted for the Superman cape for its universality.

“Wonder Woman is quite a sexist way to look at women because [of its objectification],” he said.

“So I said with Wonder Woman the concept is right, the outfit is wrong. So I switched to the Superman cape and it’s also a feminist statement, that women are strong and so on ... And visually, it’s very powerful,” Tataru added.

The women range in age and background. Some are MSF nurses and homemakers while some are students.

Nima, a nurse working with MSF who lost her home in 2014 during the last war, spoke at the exhibition. Wearing a traditional Palestinian dress embroidered with red threads, she spoke of the hardship people in Gaza suffer, from losing a loved one to rebuilding destroyed homes.

Despite holding back tears while talking about the last conflict, Nima joyfully spoke about her job as a nurse with MSF.

“I love my work very much... My colleagues call me the ‘pain killer’ in the clinic because I keep the children from feeling pain,” she said.

Meet more of Gaza’s “Wonder Women” here.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 12:05 - GMT 09:05
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