In conflict-torn Libya, artist's family turns home into museum

A seemingly ordinary villa in the heart of Tripoli holds a lifetime of works by the late Libyan artist Ali Gana, whose family has turned his house into a unique museum.

In the North African country still grappling with divisions and conflict after the fall of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, "art comes last", said Hadia Gana, the youngest of the artist's four children.

A decade in the making and with the help of volunteers, she had transformed the classic-style Tripolitan villa her father had built, before passing in 2006 at age 70, into "the first and only museum of modern art in Libya", Gana told AFP.

Bayt Ali Gana ("Ali Gana's House" in Arabic) finally opened this year, and seeks to offer both retrospection and hope in a country constantly threatened by violence and where arts and culture stand largely neglected.

"It is seen as something superfluous," Gana said, adding that galleries in the war-torn country often focus solely on selling pieces rather than making art more accessible.

Once past a lush garden, visitors reach the museum's permanent exhibition of paintings, sculptures and sketches by the masterful Ali Gana.

Other rooms include temporary exhibitions, and offer space for seminars and themed workshops.

Libyan artists had long been subject to censorship and self-censorship under Kadhafi's four-decade rule, and "we couldn't express ourselves on politics", recalled Gana, 50, a ceramic artist.

Art "must not have barriers", she said, proudly standing in the family-owned space for artistic freedom.


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