Samar Abu Asr is studying design and film animation at the Islamic University of Gaza. She was born deaf, but says it was not a surprise to her family since her father is deaf.
Four of her seven siblings are also deaf. But even though her life in Gaza is challenging, nothing will stop Samar from pursuing her artistic talents and communicating with the world around her in creative and talented ways.
Samar says she inherited her passion for art from her mother, Feryal, who had dropped out of school at early age because her father thought that marriage was a better option than education. Feryal recalled her few days in school when her art teacher complimented her work and showed off her creations to her classmates. Feryal now fully supports her eldest daughter’s dreams to become a successful artist.
She says girls in Gaza are often expected to stay home either to fill traditional roles or because parents don’t see the value in educating their daughters. Girls with hearing impairments often remain hidden away at home to avoid social stigmas.
Her proud mother says she would not let anything stop her daughter from pursuing her education and her talent. “Since she was born and as my first child, I told myself I have to invest in her and give her what I’ve lost. It’s just when you miss something, you feel like you don’t want to repeat the same pain for your child.”
Samar’s talent has been recognized for years. When she was in ninth grade, Samar won a drawing contest sponsored by Anera’s arts and culture education program. With her mother’s support and Anera’s reward of a full scholarship, Samar was able to continue her schooling and fulfill her potential. She still keeps the drawing tools she received on winning the Anera contest, a moment she describes as her “happiest childhood memory.”
When Samar graduated from Atfaluna Society for the Deaf she was able to enter the Islamic University in Gaza through a joint program Atfaluna developed to help deaf graduates continue their education. Samar explains, using sign language, “There were three options for us: teaching, maintenance of smart phones or design.” Smiling, she signs, “Naturally, I have chose design and film animation. It is not easy but we always have sign language translators in the classrooms with us who can clarify difficult topics and relay our questions to the teachers.”
Samar says she is trying to communicate some difficult issues through her drawings, showing designs of the Palestinian flag with flowers that she says expresses her hopes for a better future.
She also takes a satirical approach in some of her work, she says, to help her overcome the emotional strains of daily hardships like power outages and border closures, that are an inevitable part of life in Gaza.
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