EXHIBITIONS 2016: “OUR LIMBO” by Natalie Naccache and “LIVE, LOVE, REFUGEE” by Omar Imam

PROJECT-EXHIBITION 2016: “My Lebanon” by the young artist and illustrator Nour Flayhan
14 March 2016
FOOD 2016: Lebanese chef and food activist Kamal Mouzawak, special guest at the festival
16 March 2016

Special events include two exhibitions on Syrian refugees seen as more than statistics: “Our Limbo” by the Lebanese photographer Natalie Naccache, and “Live, Love, Refugee” by the Syrian photographer Omar Imam

In the spring of 2011, Syria erupted. What was initially a positive move for democracy and popular reform on the heels of the Arab Spring soon became a fragmented struggle for power that continues to cause unprecedented violence and destruction. A recent UNHRC report estimates there are 3,984,393 registered Syrian refugees living everywhere from Lebanon to Turkey to Egypt. There are countless more who are unregistered, drifting in forced exile and unable to return to the home they grew up in. Even as feelings of estrangement and isolation grow with every passing day, there still hangs a hope of reclamation. Natalie Naccache and Omar Imam’s stories are not about the statistics or the politics, but about the individuals caught in between. These stories reveal the struggle of the internal landscape for those who have lost their native ones, the constant uncertainty of exile, the memories that we carry with us, and the hopes that keep us alive.

The two exhibitions are presented with the support of The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)

Our Limbo

OUR LIMBO by the Lebanese photographer Natalie Naccache
Aria Art Gallery – Borgo SS. Apostoli, 40r
Opening: Saturday 9 April (6pm) – until 27 April

“Psychologically, mentally, emotionally, it’s on lockdown for all of us”, Diana, 24 from Damascus, residing in Qatar.

A photographic narrative on the psychological impact of being forced to leave your country, and the difficulties of adapting to a new one. The photographer tells the story of a group of young middle-class Syrian women who have grown up together. They leave Syria shortly before the outbreak of war to study at Lebanese universities. The women plan to return to their families in Syria and find work there, but the war puts paid to their dreams. After graduation, the group splits up, and they move all over the world – to Qatar, Dubai, the Lebanon, London and New York. Their new position as “refugees” makes them realize that they have more opportunities than other Syrians who have lost their homes, but they still have to live with the daily psychological pain of knowing that they cannot return and cannot express how they feel. The photographer Natalie Naccache tells their stories through archive material, a collective diary, video interviews and portraits.

Natalie Naccache is a Lebanese photographer based between Beirut and Dubai, represented by Getty Images. She grew up in London and studied photojournalism at the London College of Communication and at Camberwell College of Art. In her work she has always sought to overturn preconceptions about today’s Middle East, and her images have appeared in the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Esquire.

Live Love Refugees by Omar Iman_1_Only Grass

LIVE, LOVE, REFUGEE by the Syrian photographer Omar Imam
Aria Art Gallery – Borgo SS. Apostoli, 40r
Opening: Saturday 9 April (6pm) – until 27 April

Live, Love, Refugee overturns the usual images of Syrian refugees, and replaces statistics and reports with their deepest fears and most cherished dreams. In the refugee camps of the Lebanon, Omar Imam takes the refugees on a cathartic journey, asking them to recreate their dreams – dreams of escape, dreams of love or hate. The results are symbolic and often surreal images which evoke the deepest and darkest internal worlds of people who have lost their roots and who are faced with a daily combat for survival. “The people I met are living a nightmare, but I have always sensed a strength within them to uphold human dignity”.

Omar Imam is a Syrian photographer and director based in Beirut. Since 2003 he has been working on personal narratives and social awareness campaigns involving Syria, using a sardonic and conceptual approach as a reaction to violence, often publishing his work under a pseudonym. Since leaving Damascus in 2012, he has been working on personal photographic testimonies, has directed short films and organized workshops on the theme of refugees.

Omar Imam on “Live, Love, Refugee”
My project “Live, Love, Refugee” approaches the mental state of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, asking how relations and dreams are affected by conflict and displacement. It is a visual evocation of the pain and desire of Syrians who struggle to survive in their new land. The people I met are in the worst possible conditions and nightmares, but they have ability and desire to continue being human. I chose to make complex photographs with many layers, employing symbolism and surrealism, in an attempt to approach the psychological situation of my character/subjects. I wanted to disrupt the audience’s expectations of images of refugees and to give them question more than answers.

For me this is the best way to express these horrible experiences because it gives viewers the ability to imagine horrifying and over-imaged (but under-seen) cases like the Syrian situation, when every related story is a copy of a copy of a copy. I like to shock the audience without being aggressive, avoiding the easy fruit of political reaction and focusing instead on the deeper human perspective.


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