Rabie Darduna, the 33-year old owner of the door on which Banksy painted an art piece he called “bomb damage” during his visit to Gaza earlier this year, claimed to have been tricked into selling his door for 700 NIS ($175) to Belal Khaled, a Palestinian graffiti artist and Banksy-fan.
The door was the only thing left standing of Darduna’s home, one of an estimated 20,000 Gaza homes reduced to rubble during Israel’s military campaign against the Strip last summer, and it is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On his facebook page, Khaled denounced the media coverage of the sale describing him as a conman, and stated that his intention for buying the door was to preserve it in case the house was to be rebuilt and the door was to be destroyed or misplaced in the process. Khaled also said that he wants the painting to tour world galleries in order to raise awareness about the Palestinian Cause and the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, claiming he has contacted Banksy about this.
Legally speaking, Belal Khaled has done nothing wrong. The sale was completely legal and the owner signed off on the contract. And given the current state Gaza is in after the war and the lack of attention by official cultural bodies, the painting might indeed be better preserved in the hands of the artist. Though regardless of his intentions, Khaled did keep the real value of the painting from the owner and convinced him that this was a good deal. The ethics of the sale are rightfully questionable for taking advantage of the family’s homelessness and dire need for money, as well as their ignorance of the real value of Banksy’s artwork.
The sale has understandably sparked heated debate in Gaza. While many people found the sale outrageous, accusing the buyer of fraud, others claimed the door would have been damaged or stolen anyway had it not been bought and preserved. One fact remains though; Banksy’s paintings were intended for the people of Gaza, and not for Rabie Darduna or Belal Khaled. As such, “Bomb Damage” should ultimately be preserved as the property of the Palestinians of Gaza.
The painting on the door depicts the Greek mythological Goddess, Niobe, who turned into stone while weeping over her murdered children, and it is one of four art pieces that the anonymous British street artist, Banksy, created during recent trip to Gaza.