“You can tell a lot about who’s shaping our country by looking at rooftops,”
says Wa’fa, a painting student at Dar al-Kalima, squinting through the dusty windows of the third-floor painting studios of Dar al-Kalima University. She points below, “See there- that one was built by the Germans. You can tell by the way things are all lined up. This one, with all the plants and trees, that’s where Palestinian families live- always growing things wherever they can.” Black water tanks dot the rooftops in the West Bank, as far as the eye can see. A common site in the West Bank, the tanks serve as reminders of restrictions on resources for Palestinians.
Many Palestinian children grow up playing on rooftops, alongside these tanks. On the rooftops, they are free from ever-present security forces on the ground, free from the congestion of narrow streets. The sky is the limit.
Now, as a young artist Wa’fa is exploring what it all means. She is working on a series of paintings of aerial views of these rooftops. Drawing from Persian miniature style, she uses tiny brushes to create the small paintings that resemble resemble tidy city maps or Lego building plans.
Studying art wasn’t an easy decision for Wa’fa. In her conservative, traditional home, pursuing art was seen as frivolous, even deviant. But Wa’fa had a curious mind and determined spirit. After a brief stint studying biology, Wa’fa came to Dar al-Kalima. There was no other choice, really, if she truly wanted to follow her passion for art.
In supporting Bright Stars, our donors partnering with one of the foremost leaders in arts culture education in the region.
“Dar al-Kalima didn’t just develop my technical skills. My mind completely changed, too,” Wa’fa shared, adding that DAK was one of the first spaces where she felt she could freely question. The more she studied, the deeper her questions got. Dar al-Kalima gave her the freedom to wonder, to grow her imagination. “At Dar al-Kalima, I found myself,” Wa’fa says.
Now, every Sunday, groups of neighborhood children flock to Wa’fa’s home that she shares with her parents, for art lessons. Wa’fa’s mother opens the door with trays of lemonana (a Palestinian minty lemonade) to children clamoring for “Wa’fa the Artist.” It’s not what her parents imagined for her, but “I think they’re proud,” she says with a wry smile. Wa’fa hopes that she can show these young artists that creativity unlocks possibility. Just like their rooftops, the sky is the limit.
These are the kinds of students you’re supporting when you support Bright Stars of Bethlehem. Students like Wa’fa who share their talents with their community.
As we continue to celebrate our 15th year, we imagine the difference 10, 20… 50 more years of DAK graduates would make in Palestine and beyond! These are students who regard their education as a gift to be shared with their community, that others might be empowered. We rejoice that we do not do this work alone.