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Founded in 1979, October Gallery, in central London, exhibits innovative, contemporary art from around the world. For over 40 years, October Gallery has pioneered the development of the Transvangarde - the trans-cultural avant-garde.


Laila Shawa

Born in Gaza in 1940, Laila Shawa graduated summa cum laude in Fine Arts from the Italian Accademia di Belle Arti in 1964 and received a diploma in plastic arts from the Accademia San Giacomo in Rome. From 1965 to 1967, she returned to Gaza to teach arts and crafts to underprivileged children. She now lives and works in London. As a Palestinian artist, Shawa’s concern is to reflect the political realities of her country, becoming, in the process, a chronicler of events. Her work is based on a heightened sense of realism and targets injustice and persecution wherever their roots may be.

The initial impetus for a piece often comes from her own photographs, which are later transformed by means of silkscreen printing techniques. The written word is often present in her work, as in the acclaimed  Walls of Gaza series (1994), which focused on the heart-rending messages of hope and resistance spray-painted, in defiance of Israeli censorship, by the ordinary people of Gaza upon the walls of their city. One of her recent works, Walls of Gaza III, Fashionista Terorrista, 2010, will be exhibited at Art Dubai.

Her work has been exhibited in Italy, Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom, in most Arab countries, North Africa, Iraq, Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia and USA. She is represented in public and private collections across the world, including the National Galleries of Jordan and Malaysia, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the British Museum in London and the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. Her work is currently on tour in Brazil, in the Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil’s exhibition Isla, the first major exhibition of Islamic Art in Brazil.

Timebomb I

Timebomb II

Where Souls Dwell, No 12

Breast Grenades: Tribute to Cancer Survivors Including Myself. (Fuck Cancer)

Disposable Bodies No. 1

Disposable Bodies No. 2

Disposable Bodies No. 3

Disposable Bodies No. 4

Disposable Bodies No. 5
(Paradise Now)

Disposable Bodies No.6
The Departed

Birds of Paradise

Gaza Sky

Cast Lead

Trapped I

Trapped II

Trapped III


Fashionista Terrorista II
(The Walls of Gaza III)

Palestinian Spring

Inside Paradise


Face to Face

Boy Soldiers

Fashionista Terrorista

The Walls of Gaza II, 1994 (Complete set.) Lithographs on paper, 38cm x 50cm, editions 39/50

12th Century AD
12th Century AD
20 Targets
20 Targets
Amended Resolutions I
Amended Resolutions I
Amended Resolutions II
Amended Resolutions II

Blood Money
Blood Money
Coke is it!
Coke is it!
Gates Within Gates
Gates Within Gates
Letter to a Mother
Letter to a Mother

The Deal
The Deal
The Sponsors
The Sponsors
Towards Liberation
Towards Liberation
Passages to Freedom
Passages to Freedom

Brought Forward: Carried Forward in the Name of God by Laila Shawa
Brought Forward: Carried Forward in the Name of God
Clash by Laila Shawa
Walls of Gaza II
Walls of Gaza III
Red Table
Red Table

Laila Shawa Biography

Born in Gaza, Palestine 1940; lives and works in London, UK

1957 - 58  

School of Art Leonardo Da Vinci, Cairo, Egypt

1958 - 60   Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, University of Rome, Italy, BA Hons Fine Arts
1960 - 63   Summer Courses under Austrian Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka, School of Seeing, Salzburg, Austria
1960 - 64   Scuola di Arti Ornamentali San Giacomo, Rome, Italy. Diploma in Plastic & Decorative Arts
1965 - 67   Supervisor for Arts & Crafts education in refugee camps for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in Gaza
1966 - 67   Lecturer with UNESCO Institute of Education for UNRWA in Gaza
1968 - 75   Full-time artist in Beirut
1976 - 88   Lived between London and Gaza. Collaborated on the building and design of The Rashad Shawa Cultural Centre, in Gaza, for which Laila Shawa executed the stained glass windows
1988 - present   Returns to live mainly in London where she resumed work as a full-time artist
Selected Solo Shows
 2012 The Other Side of Paradise, October Gallery, London, UK
2011   Trapped: A Female Suicide Bomber, Galerie Imane Farès, Paris, France
2010-11   Sarab (Mirage), The Art Museum, Sharjah, UAE
2010   Arabopop, Articulate Baboon Gallery, Cairo, Egypt
2008   Sarab (Mirage), Atrium Gallery, DIFC, Dubai, UAE
2000   In the Name of God: Crucifixion 2000, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK
1994   The Walls of Gaza Series II, The Library, SOAS, University of London, London, UK
1992   Women and Magic, The Gallery, London, UK
1990   Women and the Veil, Jordan National Gallery, Amman, Jordan
1975   Of Horses and Cities, L’Antiquaire Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon
1972   Exhibition at Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, Kuwait
1971   Cities of Gold, Dar Tunis, The Tunisian Cultural Centre, Beirut, Lebanon
1970   Laila Shawa at the Vendome, Hotel Vendome, Beirut, Lebanon
1968   Exhibition of drawings by Laila Shawa, The Book Centre Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon
1965   Contrast and Difference, Marna House, Gaza, Palestine
Selected Group Shows
 2019  Dream No Small Dream: Celebrating 40 Years of the Transvangarde , October Gallery, London, UK
 2011 Abu Dhabi Art Fair, October Gallery (London, UK), Abu Dhabi, UAE
2008 - 11   Art Dubai, October Gallery (London, UK), Dubai, UAE
2011   Passport to Palestine, La Scatola Gallery, London, UK
    Contemporary Art/Arab & Iranian, Sotheby’s, London, UK
2010 - 11   Miragens: Contemporary Art in the Islamic World, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, touring to : Sao Paolo,
Brasilia, Brazil
2010   Sajjil, A Century of Modern Art, Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar
    Co-incidence, Galerie Imane Farès, Paris, France
    Crunchtime: Artist’s Responses to the Global Crisis, International Visual Arts Event, York, UK
2009 - 10   Contemporary Calligraphic Art from the Arab World, Nabad Gallery, Jabal Amman, Jordan
2009   Middle Eastern and European Art, the Recessionists, Somerset, UK
    Arabesque: Arts from the Arab World, the Kennedy Centre, Washington, DC, USA
2008   Arab Print, Edition I, Meem Gallery, Dubai, UAE
    Routes, Middle Eastern and Arab Art, Waterhouse & Dodd, London, UK
    Roads Were Open, Roads Were Closed, Third Line Gallery, Dubai, UAE
    Mediterraneo, Italian Cultural Institute, London, UK
    Spring Show, October Gallery, London, UK
    Word into Art, a British Museum touring exhibition, The Atrium, DIFC, Dubai, UAE
2006   Word into Art, British Museum, London, UK
    Text Messages, October Gallery, London, UK
2005   Walled In: Walled Out, Laila Shawa and Noa Lidor, Green Cardamom, London, UK
2003   Religion, Art and War, Maison Des Artes, London, UK
    Transvangarde: Contemporary Art from Around the World, (October Gallery), Kulturbrauerei, Berlin, Germany
2002   Between Legend and Reality, Modern Art from the Arab World, Reykjavik Art Museum and Akureyri Art Museum, Iceland
    From the Ocean to the Gulf and Beyond: Arab Contemporary Art, the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
2002-11   Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World, exhibition organised by the Royal Society of Fine Arts, Jordan, and Pan-Mediterranean Women Artists Network F.A.M. (Femme-Artist-Méditerranée) based in Greece which travelled throughout Europe, Australia and USA
2002   A Thousand Ways of Being. Memory and Presence in the Arts of Diasporas, October Gallery, London, UK
    Masterstrokes: Contemporary Arabic Calligraphy, October Gallery, London, UK
    Transvangarde, An Artistic World Wide Web, October Gallery, London, UK
2001   Twelve Arab Artists, Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
1998 - 00   Art Beyond Borders, UNESCO and TIMOTCA (The International Museum of Twentieth Century Art); UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France; Mitra Municipal Gallery, Lisbon, Portugal; Las Vegas Art Museum, USA
2000   First International Forum for a Culture of Peace by Pan-Mediterranean Women Artists Network, Rhodes, Greece
1990 - 00   Dialogue of the Present, Hot Gallery, Bath; Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth;
Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London; Pittshanger Manor Gallery, London;
Brighton University Gallery, Brighton, UK
1998   Mediterranea, Grand Palais, Brussels, Belgium
1997   Artistes palestiniens contemporains, Institute du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
1996   Transvangarde, October Gallery, London, UK
    Contemporary Arab Artists, the World Bank Gallery, the World Bank Building, Washington DC., USA
    The Right to Write: Calligraphic Works from the Collection of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, The Dalton Gallery, Agnes Scott College, Decatur,
Georgia, USA
1995 - 97   The Right to Hope, One World Art, UN travelling exhibition starting in Johannesburg, South Africa (whole exhibition was lost in Sarajevo 1997/8)
1995   Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, recent acquisition, John Addis Gallery, British Museum, London, UK
    Artists’ View, The Arab World, Willamette Arts Gallery, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, USA
1994 - 95   Forces of Change, Artists of the Arab World, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; Dudley House, Lehman Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; The Chicago Cultural Centre, Chicago Illinois; Wolfson Gallery and Central Gallery, Miami-Dade Community College, Miami Florida; Nexus Contemporary Art Centre, Atlanta, Georgia; Bedford Gallery,Walnut Creek, California; Gwinnett Arts Center, Duluth, Georgia, USA
1994   Shawa and Wijdan, October Gallery, London, UK
    From Exile to Jerusalem, Al-Wasiti Art Centre, Jerusalem, Israel
1993   Exhibition of Limited Prints Editions at SAGA, Salon de l’estampe et de l’édition d’art à Tirage limité, Grand Palais, Paris, France
1992   Three Artists from Gaza: Fayez Al Hasani, Kamel al Mughanni and Laila Shawa, The Shoman Foundation, Amman, Jordan
1990   Malaysian Experience, National Art Gallery of Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1989   Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Barbican Centre, London, UK
1988   The Baghdad Biennale, Saddam Centre, Baghdad, Iraq
1987   Arab Women Artists in the UK, Kufa Gallery, London, UK
1968 - 78   With Palestinian Union of Artists, based in Beirut, exhibitions in most
Arab countries, North Africa, Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Europe,
UK and USA
Public Collections

The National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The National Art Gallery, Amman, Jordan
The British Museum, London, UK
The Museum of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland
The Arab Bank Limited, Amman, Jordan
The Palestinian Union of Artists, Beirut, Lebanon
The Kuwait Fund, Kuwait City, Kuwait
The Rashad Shawa Cultural Centre, Gaza, Palestine
The Khaled Shoman Foundation, Amman, Jordan
The National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington DC, USA
The Qatar Museum for Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, Mathaf, Qatar
The Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
The TIMOTCA, Las Vegas, USA
The World of Islam Festival Trust, London, UK
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK
The Burrell Collection, Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland
DIFC, Dubai, UAE
Spazio Brazzà, Moruzzo, Italy
The Benevolent Society, Gaza, Palestine

Selected Book References
Khal, Helen. The Woman Artist in Lebanon, Catholic Press, Lebanon, 1987,
Ali, Wijdan. Contemporary Art from the Islamic World, Scorpion Books, London, UK, 1988,
Shammout, Ismail. Art in Palestine, AI Qabbas Press, Kuwait 1989,
Laila Shawa, Works 1965- 1994 AI-Hani Books, 1994.
Forces of Change, Artists of the Arab World, Washington D.C., USA, 1994
Bahnasi, Dr. Afif, Pioneers of Modern Art in the Arab Countries, Dar Al-Raed Al-Arabi, Beirut.
Shawa and Wijdan, October Gallery,1994, Amica Press.
The Dictionary of Art”, Macmillan Press, 1996, London.
The Right to Hope, Earthscan Publications Ltd., 1996, London
Impressions”, H. Aschehoug & Co., 1996, Norway.
The Right to Write, Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, USA.
Artistes Palestiniens Contemporains, Institute Du Monde Arabe, 1997, Paris, France.
The Space Between Our Footsteps, Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Dialogue of the Present, Woman’s Art Library, 1999.
Mediterranea, Art Life 1998, Brussels, Belgium.
Twelve Arab Artists”, The Werled Museum, 2001, Netherlands.
Between Legend and Reality, Aurora Art Museum, Reykjavik Art Museum Iceland  2002. 
From the Ocean to the Gulf and Beyond: Arab Modern Art”, The Royal Society of Fine Arts, 2002, Amman, Jordan.
Breaking the Veil, The Jordan National Gallery and FAM, 2002 Rhodes, Greece.
The Word into Art The British Museum 2006/.2008
, A Sea that Unites  ,The Italian Cultural Institute, London 2008.
Sarab , DIFC, Dubai 2008.
Impossible Dreams, the work and Art of Laila Shawa, SkIRA Books, Milano, 2009 (pending)
Contemporary Art in The Middle East, ArtWorld, Black Dog Publishing, London, UK, 2009.
October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3AL Tel: + 44 (0)20 7242 7367