Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Natreen - Leila Alaoui on pending lives

Leila Alaoui will be opening her exhibition "Natreen" a labor of love documenting a photography exhibition commissioned by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) with the support of the European Commission (ECHO). Leila is a French-Moroccan multimedia artist she works on cultural identities and migration, using portrait photography, video installations and short films. She fell in love with Beirut as soon she set foot in it.
Leila shared with Beirut/NTSC some of the stories she collected:
Ahmed is blind. So is his father and two of his three siblings - a genetic disorder. The family of six fled Syria to Lebanon in October 2013 with the help of their mother, their older sister, and "God's will". For two weeks after their arrival, they lived in a small room in what used to be a school in South Lebanon. They shared the ground floor and one bathroom with four other families.
"They can't go to the bathroom alone, I have to be with  them," says Maha, the mother. "But the bathroom at the school was too small to fit more than one person. So I stood in the doorway and tried to help, while the neighbors' kids ran around and played in the hallway behind me. It was humiliating"
Below is also part of Yazan's story as told by his mother:
"The night we decided to flee our house, we were running  around frantically packing the important documents, clothes, and some food. But Yazan wouldn't leave without his desktop computer, and on it, his computer games. He insisted and refused to budge... We unplugged it, carried it with whatever energy we had left and ran."
Lama is another one such person, different story, same outcome:
Lama's husband disappeared a few months ago in Syria, and she decided to leave with her daughter and join her sister's family in South Lebanon.
They now all live in a room located in the backyard of a local businessman's home, and separated from it by an agricultural field that her sister's husband tends to. "[The local businessman] lets us stay here for free, and we take care of his land. The kids have somewhere to play and when it's warm enough we take our mattresses and sleep outside under the trees."
Speaking to Beirut/NTSC Leila said "The exhibition is called Natreen. After spending 10 days traveling around Lebanon to meet with Syrians refugees, all I can recall is people who are “waiting”. They are waiting to get help from NGOS, waiting for news from there loved ones… waiting to go home, waiting for the war to stop. Most of these refugees had a normal life back home. They owned land, houses… They had jobs and their kids were in school. From one day to another they lost everything. And their lives are simply "pending" now."
All images by Leila Alaoui. Opening on November 29th between 6 and 9 P.M. at Station.
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