A NYC Tribute to Palestinian Artist Heba Zagout, Killed in Gaza

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A table displays prints of Heba and Maysaa Zagouts’ work to raise funds for the Zagout family. (all photos by and courtesy Maneeta Doshi)

“I consider art a message that I deliver to the outside world through my expression of the Palestinian cause and Palestinian identity,” Gazan artist Heba Zagout explained in a September 2023 interview. Close-ups of her finished paintings are cut between shots of Zagout, dressed in a cream hijab and a white-and-black keffiyeh, meticulously applying acrylics to white canvas. A little over two weeks later, on October 13, Israeli airstrikes killed Zagout and two of her children, Mahmoud and Adam, while they were sheltering in their home in Gaza.

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A framed print of one of Heba Zagout’s paintings. All of her original canvases were destroyed in the Israeli airstrike that killed her and her sons in October.

Zagout and her sons’ deaths rippled in and outside of The Occupied Palestinian Territories, afflicting friends and family, such as her younger brother Mahmoud, who currently lives in Belgium, and her older sister Maysaa, a visual artist living in a refugee camp in Gaza. Their loss also reverberated across the international community. On social media, users honored the artist’s life by reposting her paintings, which have become galvanizing symbols in calls for a ceasefire. 

In New York City, the arts collective Museummuseum has been building on this global tribute with a print campaign and pop-up exhibitions of her work. The initiative not only spotlights Zagout’s artistry, but also raises funds for her surviving family members.

Led by Maneeta Doshi, a full-spectrum doula and infant care specialist, and Ivanna Rodríguez-Rojas, an art historian and museum educator, Museummuseum was founded as a direct response to “the need to create spaces to gather and convene around the matter of the genocide in Palestine,” Doshi told Hyperallergic.

They explained that upon hearing of Heba’s death, they began “scouring the internet,” looking for every iteration of her work available. Rojas then connected with Mahmoud, and they began speaking about using scans of his sister’s work to both sustain her legacy and provide aid to their family, since all of her original canvases were destroyed in the air strike that took her life.

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Framed paintings by Maysaa Zagout depict scenes from Palestine.

“The funds should and can be used in whichever way best suits the family, ” Doshi said, pointing to the rising cost of necessary resources for Palestinians in Gaza. Moreover, evacuations from the territory have become increasingly challenging due to border closures, in effect stranding millions of displaced Palestinians. Since Hamas’s October 7 assault, intense Israeli bombardments have killed upwards of 30,228 Palestinians in Gaza.

In early November, Museummuseum hosted its first print exhibition of Heba’s work, raising over $1,400. These proceeds were then sent to Mahmoud, who distributed the funds among the family.

The initiative has since expanded to include Maysaa’s work. Last week, Museummuseum held a one-night exhibition at Bushwick’s the Living Gallery, displaying seven prints of Heba’s work alongside five original canvases by Maysaa. On March 14, the collective is partnering with activist group Art Against Displacement (AAD) to present another show. Running until March 17, the exhibition will operate out of the Lower East Side architecture collective Citygroup

Those interested in supporting Museummuseum’s print sale can access the initiative here. Information about the upcoming exhibition with AAD will be published on the group’s Instagram.

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