Gazans turn seashells into art for sale to make a living

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Twenty-one-year-old Mohamad Raje, heads out to the seashore in Gaza City along with his two younger brothers to collect seashells.

The beach in Gaza City has thousands of shells, which the Raje family use as a material in their family business.

“I used to be a student at school and my father is responsible for 13 people and my father is a [former] worker in Israel. I felt that my father was upset and needed someone to help him with the household income so I was had to work to earn money to help my father,” said Mohamed Raje.

”I had to look for something and I thought about working with seashells. I started making art and statues and we started to sell them,” he added.

After collecting the seashells, the boys return to their home at the beach refugee camp in Gaza City where they build decorations at their modest home before hitting the streets and selling their home-made ornaments.

Adnan Raje, father of 12 and husband to a sick wife, says he was forced to find alternatives for income when he could no longer work in Israel.

“The seashells come from the sea, and then the silicon tubes, which sometimes are not available - sometimes they are difficult to find and other times we can’t find them at all - it depends on the roads [crossings] which Israel opens or shuts down for us,” Adnan Raje said.

The Raje’s are thankful that they have money coming in which has allowed them to support their family.

Many in the coastal enclave are unemployed with no income.
Comparing their status with others around the world, Adnan wonders why the people of Gaza continue to suffer economically and socially.

“And the world has besieged us and I do not know for what reasons it has besieged us - we are a people like all other people; we have thoughts and we have educated people and we have knowledge and from nothing we can create many things,” Adnan said.

The pieces they make range in price from 50-80 shekels (12-20 U.S dollars). The cost of making a piece makes up the majority of the price, leaving the Raje’ family a profit of between two to five U.S dollars.
“Of course to produce something, it costs - what we sell for 50 Shekels costs us 40 Shekels, 35 Shekels,” Adnan explains.

Unemployment rates in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, are between 40-60 percent.

Exit and entry points from Gaza to Israel and neighboring Egypt open occasionally after they were sealed off when the Islamist Hamas party seized power in June 2007.

Consequently an already weak economy is crumbling even further as the strip suffers from acute food, fuel and medical shortages.

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