Beirut, I Love you
From Mirfaq to Vega - Video
A documentation of my exhibition, From Mirfaq to Vega, at Giorgio Persano gallery in Turin, Italy. October 21, 2014 - Jan 10, 2015. Soundscape by Ray Hage.
From Mirfaq to Vega.
In May 2000, after 22 years of occupation, the Israeli army- within 24 hours- withdrew its troops from Lebanon. My father’s home at the time was turned into a military zone and within the very rooms he grew up in, the Israeli army used to imprison and interrogate people. After they left, it took many years for us to reconcile with the subjugation of our personal space and move forward. Driving down to Hasbaya for the first time, I thought about all my ancestors who traveled these lands before me. Among them was Asmahan, a Syrian Druze singer, who rose to fame in the late 1930s and died mysteriously, very young.
During the French occupation of the Levant, Asmahan’s uncle, Zayd al Atrach, along with my great grandfather Fadlallah al Atrach, composed a war poem- a qasida, as they were escaping from the French. Years later, Zayd gave the poem to Asmahan who turn it into a song. Ya Dirati- My Home. My home, don’t blame us. Blame those who betrayed you. We quenched the thirst of our swords with blood of our foes. Unlike the traitors we’ll never cheapen you for a price.
From fire, we create life. From destruction, we find the strength to construct meaning in our lives. If stars destroy themselves, then maybe it’s only natural for us to do the same. We are obeying the fundamental laws of our universe. Churning each other up, and spitting out starstuff. Constantly. Effortlessly.
The journey began with setting fire to the white veil worn by the women of my region. From the ashes, I created ink that investigates the absence of light. Through paintings, drawings, video, sound and sculptural works, I question the unseen and the unknown. The dark particles that constantly pass through us. The majority of what surrounds us, we cannot see. Today, like my mother and father, I do not have a home that exists from my childhood. Every home my grandfathers built was destroyed, bombed or occupied. What exists today are reconstructions, with some objects that somehow remained as witnesses to the violence around us.
A hero that stands out is an oak tree that my father used to play in as a child. During the occupation, the Israeli army built a bunker near it. After they left, the challenge was to disassemble the concrete structure without destroying the tree.
I am using my family history to create a more personal understanding of what may be, today, one of the most tragic and violent places in the world- the Middle East. This work is about home. About the homes we had, and the homes we lost and the people who destroyed them. But, ultimately my work is about forgiveness, love and compassion.
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