Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mansour Labaki and the tarnished collective memory

At the end of every academic year at school, students who excelled were given books as a means of encouragement by the school administration. We still have those books at home - a Bugatti retrospective, a Physics book explaining many phenomena, etc, etc.. - but invariably every year we would be given "Kfar Sama" by Mgr. (at the time Fr.) Mansour Labaki. And, for the lack of something better in the Beirut war-torn summer, I would read it again and again and again (By the way the edition I am referring to was different than the above, it was simply blue without an image and just the title and the name of the author). This is by no means a defense of Labaki who has been found guilty by the Vatican of sexual molestation of, and soliciting from, minors (for a Middle East needing more than ever for Chrisitan communities to anchor around their shepherds as Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise, this is indeed a blow).
But since Beirut/NTSC deals with pop culture, and since my whole is based on how pop culture can be a bridging gap of communities and a way to create a collective memory which will lead to national identity, then Labaki is a major interest of mine. His prayers and hymns are in the most renowned in the Maronite community. Our whole childhood is built around "Arafta" (You knew) or "Inchallah el am7a" (May the wheat grain) or "Anta wahdaka da3awt" (Only you called) - and when he appeared on TV for a special Christmas live show a couple of years back the whole of the Christian community could be heard singing-along to his simple but very touching "Laylata al Milad" (Christmas eve).
So all of this, for me, brings back remembrances of full classrooms of a Catholic Maronite school going to church together, of meetings with friends on Saturdays after mass, and many other ritualistic elements which bind communities together. So the Labaki affair is a tarnishing of those memories and a soiling of a collective bond. You can still enjoy his song on this link - but from here henceforth - they will never sound the same.
Post a Comment