Healing through painting

Haya Hamalka has just opened her exhibition In the Magic of 7 at the Tribal Art & Israeli Art gallery in Tel Aviv.

(photo credit: SADAN PROART)

Haya Hamalka (born Haya Sellam) worked most of her life as a healer, but during the past two years, she discovered that she can paint and more importantly, she felt she must paint.

A long suppressed artist in her simply exploded. Hamalka has just opened her exhibition In the Magic of 7 at the Tribal Art & Israeli Art gallery in Tel Aviv (the exhibition open until the second of April, 2022), where she shows “7 women series, of 7 energies and 7 chakras”: Paintings inspired by her North African roots, to which she reconnected in recent years, after her mother’s death; the Berber culture, Kabbalah, Hebrew letters, Ethiopian healing scrolls, Moroccan Islamic Geometry and her visions.

Hamalka was born in Paris, to a Jewish family of Tunisian and Algerian roots. They celebrated Passover and Yom Kippur, but apart from that, she was raised secular, although with a very strong identity of her roots. Always very important in her life were female members of her family: Mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, who was also a healer.

Living in Paris as a very young person, she took art classes. Her parents noticed she had a talent for drawing. But after five months, she stopped taking them, because she did not enjoy them so much. She was more interested in studying dance and that was what she decided to study. But, that also did not become her profession.

She found her calling in healing others and this is what she has been doing for most of her life using different methods and healing traditions. Hamalka (the nickname she was given to her by her friend who was involved in Kabbalah), was working as a healer and masseuse; she studied and practiced esoteric acupuncture, shamanism, intense meditations and internal alchemy. Asked to explain what she means by healing, she answered, “This is amending, forgiving, repairing, loving, accepting, allowing, transforming, and evolving.” Hamalka adds that her nickname puts a responsibility on her and on “sharing the kingdom” [‘malka’, the queen], she says, “Which each of us has inside.”

 BLUE MOON, 2020. (credit: SADAN PROART) BLUE MOON, 2020. (credit: SADAN PROART)

Hamalka worked for many years in Paris and Los Angeles, where she moved with her husband and two children. Eleven years ago, already divorced for many years, she felt an urge to move to Israel. She was tired of L.A. and felt like something was missing in her life. So in 2011, she made aliyah and moved to Eilat, where she had relatives and easily found a job as a masseuse. “I could not work as a healer there,” she says, “but as a masseuse, I was making good money, so I decided to travel.”

That is what she did. After her first year in Israel, Hamalka went to Thailand for three weeks of meditation in the dark and after that, she went backpacking all over Asia for four months.

HAMALKA CAME back to Israel richer in observations, images and experiences, which we can see in her art now. But, she only started painting recently, after her mother passed away in 2018. “I heard voices. I was receiving messages that I must paint.” says Hamalka. She understood that she needs to express herself this way now and this is her new way of healing others.

Apart from her memories, after her mother’s death Hamalka’s direct inspiration in art was a fibula (a piece of traditional jewelry), which used to belong to her great-grandmother Esther, from Khenchela, Algeria. “It was used as a pin on female clothes and in Berber tradition it symbolizes fertility”, explains Hamalka. “It was passed to my grandmother, then to my aunt and me.” She has held on to this family relic for years and now when she started to paint, it fit perfectly Hamalka’s desire of empowering women. The symbol of a fibula was also on her mother’s couscous plates, which she brought home...

“I was missing a table cloth to put the plates on, so I started to paint it”, say Hamalka; and then, she recalls, she heard voices and continued painting, putting on canvas, or in the reality on big coffee bags, she found on Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv, and later on, on burlap, the visions that were stored in her for years. The result of this is the current exhibition.

As frames, she uses recycled wood from construction sites, which she cleans herself. So, even the frames have a personal touch. In her paintings, Hamalka uses intensive colors, which she explains, “give a lot of possibilities in life”, but also “represent different chakras.” 

As she focuses only on painting nowadays, she left other forms of work and she wants to use her art as a form of healing. “Knowing the meaning of each chakra is very important in healing”, she says. Looking at her paintings, there is a lot of mysticism. She also told me that in one piece she painted the past (“the letters are backward, in order, but backward – the time is reflecting; it’s an imprint of memories”), in another she painted the future, but she hasn’t painted the present, yet…

As with many who make aliyah in their mature age, Hamalka started her life almost from scratch. She says there were moments of loneliness (her teenage children, at the time, a daughter and a son, stayed in the US with their father). 

During her 11 years in Israel, Hamalka moved around the country. She lived in Eilat, Ra’ananna, Tel Aviv and now she is thinking of moving to a smaller place in the north of Israel, Kiryat Tivon. She found an artistic environment there, where she will continue painting. “I think I am not finished yet. I still have things to say.” But, she is not sure yet if she will still be focusing on women, as in her current exhibition.

But, at least up to now, women are crucial in Hamalka’s life and art. Also, her exhibition comes at an important time of celebrating women. We met just between International Women’s Day and Purim, which would not have happened without Queen Esther (the name, nomen omen, carried by Haya’s grandmother), so I could not ask Hamalka what makes women so important in her eyes.

“First of all, women give birth, so this is a creation,” she said, “I am very mystical and want to inspire other women, and I want to show them that they can develop their creativity. 

“I believe in women, because women are more oriented in heart and most of my life, since the age of nine, I was trying to understand what the heart is. Men are more disconnected and I know that the healing of the planet will come more from women, not from men.” ■


Haya Hamalka, 57Paris – Los Angeles – Eilat – Tel Aviv, 2011