Where Do Swans Come From?  is comprised of three series : South-East Beirut, Bekaa Valley and Along the Beirut River. Following the end of the civil war, Lebanon was divided by many invisible boundaries and deeper segregation. 

Those three series are a multi-layered representation of youth living within these communities and with the legacy of conflict.


Where Do Swans Come From ? 

South-East Beirut 



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The Ain El Rammaneh Incident or the Bus Massacre is commonly remembered as the spark that set off the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. This bloody incident incited long -standing sectarian hatred and mistrust between Christian and Palestinian/Muslim communities. 

It resulted in 300 deaths in 3 days.




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The core of the capital is an area thousands of years old which was heavily damaged during the civil war. Its major redevelopment into a global financial district was termed a 'memorycide' as vestiges ranging from a neolithic village, a medieval souk and a Phoenician port were uncovered during the reconstruction and reburied to make way for tall office towers. Furthermore, all traces of the war were erased.

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During the many wars, most families had to spend days, sometimes months in makeshift shelters often with little light, water or electricity.

Usually, it would be a windowless room, either the bathroom or basement, with the least exposed walls to oncoming bullets and rockets.





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Kfarchima, in south-east Beirut, is mainly populated by Christians, Maronites and Melkite Greek Catholics. As it was on a primary 'faultline', the town was heavily bombed during the civil war.

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Lebanon is on an important bird migration route when birds migrate South to spend the winter in Africa.

The Woodlark is one such bird with a melodious warbling song that favours heathland and clearings in pine forests. 






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In addition to the complex mix of ethnic, religious and cultural demographics in Lebanon dating back to 6000 years, there is a substantial number of stateless persons coming from as far as Ethiopia and South-East Asia as well as many thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees.


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Following 400 years of rule over Lebanon, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned following World War I leading to the rise in the 'Middle East' of Western powers. It is widely believed that the continuous instability and violence in that part of the world stem from decisions imposed by the colonial powers made at this point in history.


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ABOUT WHERE DO SWANS COME FROM?


There is no epic quality to the aftermath of a war and what unfolds usually remains invisible and untold.


Although I still call Lebanon my homeland, I find myself now in a hybrid position of also being an outsider. On many return trips since war ended in 1990, I have until recently focused on representations of war and conflict from an autobiographical perspective within a post-colonial context. However, in ‘Where Do Swans Come From?’ I have been concentrating on a repre -sentation of youth in the aftermath of war living between two worlds: negotiating between the brutal realities of a conflict-ridden country and the vast reach of the western world with all its affluence.


In this series, the subject is ‘embedded’ into layered visualization encompassing a fractured environment and the remnants of a traditional culture, a wilderness under threat and urban spaces marked by extreme polarities of post-war decay and shiny symbols of global investments. The subject of youth is to be seen as the possibilities inherent in that period of life and using the combined imagery of a subject and multi-scapes would emphasize that these lives are shaped by the paradoxes of where they live. Even after several decades, the uncertainty of the peace means that the country is still in a state of transition forever ‘on-the-threshold-of' realising stability. A situation that has an undeniable impact on the future of many of these youths. It seems that the fault-lines of conflict are still there and could just be triggered at any point.


The unstable reality of this land is shown through a flow of stories and imagery of decay, which act as metaphors for chronic loss and waste but do not form a linear narrative. This approach, I feel, would allow the viewer to consider more the complexities of a place and time as well as undermining any expectation of a single or defining perspective. Furthermore, I aim to offer a portrayal of the youth showing the multiplicity of culture and hopefully dispel stereotypes of youth in the Middle East as promoted by the majority of the mass media.

 

© Leslie Hakim-Dowek – 2015


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This series consists of a large 'archive' of digital photographs, scanned archival material and texts with sizes ranging from A6 to A1. As an 'archive', it can be adapted and reconfigured to any space and a booklet with all texts and captions would be made available for viewers.


This studio installation shot shows a possible display although for an exhibition the scale would be increased. 


Using Format