Art Dubai 2019 – Rana Samara’s War Games


20 – 23 March, 2019
Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai
Booth C12

Rana Samara’s War Games takes us to the imaginative worlds of refugee children living in Gaza and elsewhere in the region. Exploring the social and political locked in a child’s dream or rather nightmare, Samara highlights the plight of children in a turbulent region dreaming of fixing their own worlds and being able to simply “play.”

Dispossessed and traumatized by military war and occupations, children living in camps dreaming of far away life were asked by Samara to draw their re-occurring dreams. Unsurprisingly, they illustrated personal stories that revolved predominantly around “play”. Samara translates those drawings on large stretches of canvases using striking bright colors and vivid ornaments as if she is trying to reflect the size and value of life details found in those dreams in her huge scaled, colorful paintings. Prosthetic implants, an empty Mackintosh chocolate tin full of thread coils, huge Lego bricks, and various computer games are a glimpse of what lies behind intimate personal stories into which she delves.

Children dream of games they yearn to play and objects that bring them feelings of safety and comfort within one’s own home and family re-occurs to become part of lifelong memories and influences. It is no wonder that Samara addresses this topic in particular as an adult. For it is her own experience as a child that sparked this project. Samara started this project by drawing “Super Mario”, stemming from her own childhood experience when Israeli soldiers stormed her own home and kicked her and her family out, and ransacked the house. Samara never forgot that they disturbed a “Super Mario” game that she was playing preventing her to complete it and losing a “life” on screen eventually.

While re-occurring dreams reflect trauma and wounds that can leave an indelible mark on adult life, dreaming of playing simply reflects the dire lives of these children born and raised in “transient” homes that become permanently “transitional.” Makeshift structures that house impoverished and densely packed populations of refugees lack the basic infrastructure of services, with no adequate personal space that allows children sufficient room to play.

Samara’s previous project, Intimate Space, explored the intimate and social aspects of living in refugee camps. In War Games, Samara continues this pursuit of bringing fundamental and intimate issues facing refugees into the public realm, unearthing subjects that are rarely explored artistically.