Lost Lebanese Archives Discovered at Homeless Centre
#photography & visual arts
no-image, Lost Lebanese Archives Discovered at Homeless Centre
With the help of Kickstarter, Polish artist Anna Dąbrowska collected 23 thousand pounds to publish hundreds of archival photographs from Lebanon. Dąbrowska's friendship with the owner and part-author of the series began at Arlington House hostel for homeless men.
Anna Dąbrowska and Diab Alkarssifi met while she was an artist-in-residence in Arlington House.
Alkarssifi left Lebanon in 1993 and headed to London. He took with him only a small part of an archive of 27 thousand photographs. One day, the man turned up at the artist’s studio with two carrier bags full of "Tenderly wrapped negatives and stacks of old prints tied into bundles" Dąbrowska tells The Guardian, "like a giant puzzle waiting to be re-ordered."
From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, Diab Alkarssifi was an obsessive visual chronicler of everyday life as well as a photojournalist. The collection covers the years 1889 to 1993 and contains Alkarssifi's photojournalistic work as well as family photos. "The local people, who knew me as the photographer, would give me their photographs to keep for them in case they went missing in the chaos of the civil war in Lebanon," he told the Guardian.
"Diab came to my studio as the shadow of a man," says Dąbrowska, "with these battered prints and negatives wrapped up in old newspapers. They are evidence of his home, his exile, his family, his memories and his very complex relationship with his homeland."
In 2013, Dąbrowska and Alkarssifi went to Lebanon to recover the rest of the collection. Unfortunately, it had mysteriously disappeared.
What fascinated the Polish artist was the current, perhaps selective, interpretation of the historical pictures and European analysis of Lebanese reality. "What was most interesting was to listen to Diab talk about what was on the pictures".
With the support of Ashkal Alwan, a non-profit organization based in Beirut, she spent a month in Lebanon photographing the inhabitants and writing down their stories. "People were very open about sharing their memories," she said.
After returning to London, she organised a couple of meetings to talk about the role of archives in art and politics. "An important part of the project is the involvement of people, the discussion around the topic," she explains.
The negatives and prints brought to Dąbrowska's studio are the raw material for the artist’s book that will be published in 2015 by Book Works and The Arab Image Foundation, with the help of the funds from Kickstarter. Dąbrowska hopes to exhibit the collection in Beirut in spring 2015, then in the UK and Poland.
More on the project lebanesearchive.co.uk.
a lebanese archive
Author: Michał Dąbrowski, translator and editor : MJ 30/09/2014
Source: The Guardian