Sunday, December 1, 2013

Natreen by Leila Alaoui at Station

Those of you in Beirut, please make a detour to Station and attend Leila Alaoui's beautiful, mesmerizing exhibition "Natreen" or "waiting" which was commissioned by the Danish Refugee Council to raise awareness as to the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Next to every photo is the story of the people who are featured in it. What is most amazing about this exhibition is that, whereas one expects those usual photos of despair and sadness and haggardness related to such situations, Leila shows up a totally different angle - one based on dignity, resilience, and dare one say it? Hope.
The images capture the refugees not as some lump sum vague politicized entity but rather as individuals and people who are trying to rebuild shattered lives within harsh conditions. Leila is also using daily items such as hanged laundry, makeshift sinks, pieces of textile as a separator between "kitchen" and "living" room, or even large duvets with repetitive motifs, or - that stroke of genius from her sensitive eye - a converted vinyl ad into a wall.
But all these signs of normality do nothing but emphasize the oddity of the situation, the lack of intimacy (while pretending there is an illusion of one), and a notion of an ongoing daily life when obviously, a major breaking point has occurred.
Again, the beauty, sensitivity and humanity of the images is truly very touching. Do yourself a favor and see the exhibition. As a final note please notice that the photos above do not do justice to the originals and were taken (rather amateurishly) by myself.

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