Siblings in blockaded Gaza carve out new artistic niche

Two siblings in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip are making a living by producing decorative ornaments out of tree branches.

Several months ago, Nidal and Heba Nanhale -- a brother-and-sister team aged 20 and 23 respectively -- fashioned an attractive coffee table from the branches of olive and pine trees.

They cut the branches into round plates before coating them with paint and varnish, giving the final product an authentic, natural look.

The pair has since perfected the technique to produce an entire line of baskets, trays, mirrors and picture frames, along with other household items and accessories.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency about their work, the pair explained how they had done a feasibility study before jumping into their new business.

Heba, who designs most of the products, graduated from Gaza's Social Services Department.

I couldn't find any jobs after I graduated, she explained. Fortunately, my brother and I can now make a living through our artistic work.

I had been volunteering with two organizations devoted to helping needy Gazans, she recalled. But I needed a job to meet my financial obligations.

Heba -- who maintains a Facebook page showcasing their work -- says she is thankful for finally having found work, noting that thousands of university graduates in Gaza remain unemployed.

Noting that she and her brother mainly used olive, pine, fig and lemon branches as raw materials, Heba said dozens of homes in Gaza had purchased and used their products.

The biggest problem they face, she said, are the frequent electricity cuts that have become endemic to Gaza.

When electricity is available, we often have to work eight hours straight without a break," the young artisan said.

Nidal, for his part, lamented the adverse effects of Israel's 12-year-long siege of the Gaza Strip, which, he said, had made it difficult -- if not impossible -- to find many of the materials they require.

Noting Gaza's chronic economic difficulties, Nidal pointed out that much of the youth in the coastal enclave were trying to find alternative sources of income through individual projects.

According to official estimates, 80 percent of Gaza City's inhabitants depend on foreign assistance to survive. Forty percent, meanwhile, currently live under the poverty line.

Since 2006, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli blockade that has gutted the territory's economy and deprived its two million inhabitants of many staple commodities.

Source: Anadolu Agency