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. The three series focus on a multi-layered representation of youth living with the legacy of conflict within these Christian, Muslim and Armenian communities (respectively). 

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 representation 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 these series, the subjects are ‘embedded’ into a layered visualization encompassing a fractured environment, 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 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 most of the mass media. 

© Leslie Hakim-Dowek – 2016 

Where Do Swans Come From?  Includes digital photographs, texts and archival material. Sizes vary from A4 to A1. The complete series can be viewed on my website. A small booklet with all the captions will be printed to accompany an exhibition of this series.

Using Format