Linda Durham, owner of Linda Durham Contemporary Art (1101 Paseo de Peralta, 466-6600), traveled to the Gaza Strip in March to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8, 2009) with Code Pink, an international organization of women for peace.
SFR: How did you get involved with Code Pink?
LD: I’ve been on Code Pink’s email list and one morning, in late February, I turned on my computer and [an email] said, ‘Come with us to Gaza.’ By 9 am I had signed up. That very day I got my tickets. The stated goal was to celebrate International Women’s Day with the women of Gaza and also to be a delegation that would encourage—I use the word encourage instead of force—the Egyptians to open the borders to Gaza.
What was International Women’s Day like there?
I found that day particularly emotional. I wrote in my journal that if the trip ended after that one day, it would all have been worth it. There was a sisterhood that we felt for one another. Every single woman kissed me in the Palestinian way. They all thanked me. I was crying—thanking me? For what? They were thanking me for just coming to hear their stories, just being there.
What happened during the rest of your stay?
We went to hospitals; we went to schools; we went to the bombed areas in the north; we went to relocation camps; we met women who had been imprisoned in Israel and had been tortured there. They spoke to us—that was another time of just crying, crying, crying. Even the translator was crying. One night we had an opportunity to meet with a doctor whose daughters had been killed, including a girl who had come [to Santa Fe] for Creativity for Peace. His apartment was quite nice. And then from a darkened hallway, I saw one of the members of our delegation was being held up by the doctor’s brother, like she had collapsed. A minute later we went into that room. It was the room where the girls died. Where the bomb came in. The horror of that room is that there’s a giant hole in the wall, and there’s debris and bomb parts everywhere, but on the ceiling and on the books and all around—blood and pieces of flesh. To be in that room, with the father who lost his daughters and his niece…
Did the trip change your impressions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
[In the US] we get a very one-sided picture. And I may be giving you a very one-sided picture on the other side. Before I went there, I had a view that was a little more centrist and balanced—like, ‘They’re all nuts. An eye for an eye.’ But when you’re actually there and see what has happened to one group of people against what has happened to another group of people, something has to be done.
What are you going to do? What can you do?
I can give talks. I can write. I can speak out. I can join another delegation. I can continue to stand on the corner of Cerrillos and St. Francis on Fridays. I can write to my congressman; I can go to Washington. I can do all those things, for sure. But can I get other people to join me? Can I form a New Mexico delegation and go back again? Because that’s what’s needed. I also want to know the other side; I’d like to go back to Israel…to talk to some Israelis and see what their feelings are.
Was it weird to spend this time in Gaza and then to come back here to your gallery every day?
Yes. I was once in Bolivia in a very small town. Someone asked me, ‘What do you do?’ And I thought…I can’t say that I sell big pieces of cloth for $5,000. So I said I was a teacher. It was at that time that I thought a teacher is a righteous job.
How, then, do you justify your profession?
Because I really think that the gallery is, for me, a vehicle for communication. It is a place where everybody is welcome and where there is always some kind of interesting dialogue going on, and that we are exhibiting the product of creative, authentic, deep, honest, smart minds—and that makes this gallery fine. That’s how I rationalize it.