Nabad in Atlantico.fr: Making Changes in the Arts and Culture Scene in Lebanon following the Beirut Port Blast

We are more than pleased to have our Nabad program mentioned by journalist Maya Khadra in Atlantico.fr as one of the change-makers in the arts and culture scene in Lebanon.

Read the article “Un an après l’explosion du port de Beyrouth le Liban entre résilience et crise sans fin” (August 4, 2021) HERE.▲

We had to do something following the Beirut port blast

This summer marks the release of the anthology The Beirut Call: Harnessing Creativity for Change, a collection [by the Nabad program – Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture] from Elyssar Press that features the work of 21 artists, poets, professors, and activists exploring the theme of art as essential, especially in the wake of disasters.

The virtual book launch, hosted by the Shuffle Collective, celebrates this crucial anthology about resilience & resistance culture in Lebanon. Collectively, the art, poetry, academic testimonials, analyses, narratives, and stories in this work and demand social change.

Below are just a few highlights from this virtual event, which you can watch and leave a comment on our Elyssar Press YouTube channel.

Artists and Academics Speak to Art as Essential

Katia Aoun Hage, the founder of Elyssar Press, opened the reading portion of the book launch with her powerful poem “Beyond the screen in my palm,” where the speaker studies her phone filled “with faces of loved ones” while contacting family during the immediate aftermath of the Beirut port explosion.

Cover image of The Beirut Call shows downtown Lebanon at night with street art and many people near a large church with arches and columns.
You can purchase The Beirut Call now as an e-book or hardcover copy.

After setting the stage, Hage welcomed Dr. Mitri Raheb, who spoke to the role of art immediately following the explosion on August 4th of 2020.

“Staying a spectator was not an option,” Dr. Raheb explained in the book launch, “we had to do something.” At the time, Dr. Raheb was in Palestine, where he is the Founder and President of Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem, and he also wrote the foreword in The Beirut Call.

Dr. Raheb, along with Dr. Pamela Chrabieh and Roula Salibi are three key people who made this anthology possible. The team at Elyssar Press could not be more impressed by their dedication to the support essential art. This anthology is a result of that sentiment, with proceeds from The Beirut Call going towards Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, as a vibrant and critical effort to fund artists, arts NGOs, and small creative enterprises’ projects in Lebanon.

In the words of Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, from her introduction for the anthology, the “contributions to The Beirut Call inspire us to think about the impacts of arts and culture on cities and urban life […] as well as so many other facets of living.”

At around the 75th minute mark of the book launch, Dr. Chrabieh continued to share powerful words:

“We’re not looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, because we will probably not see that in our lifetime, but at least in our darkest hours, we are surrounded with people who shine—beautiful souls—who are both resistant and resilient.”

-Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, professor & artist

Featured speakers in this book launch also included Anthony Semaan, Carmen Yahchouchi, Cliff Makhoul, Dorine Potel Darwiche, Faten Yaacoub, Frank Darwiche, Joelle Sfeir, Katia Aoun Hage, Linda Tamim, Loulou Malaeb, Nada Raphael, Roula Salibi, Nadia Wardeh, Roula-Maria Dib, Omar Sabbagh, Rabih Rached, Wadih Al-Asmar, Reine Abbas, and Roula Douglas.

21 cropped portraits of the artists, reporters, writers, and professors whose work is in The Beirut Call.

The Beirut Call is a new anthology about resilience & resistance culture in Lebanon. Click the image or here to watch the Book Launch.

(…)

SOURCE: ELYSSAR PRESS, June 22, 2021. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Art from Dr. Pamela Chrabieh’s “Duwama” Collection in Indelible

Thanking Dr. Roula Maria Dib for featuring samples of my collection in Indelible!

I was born and raised in the 1970s-1980s war in Lebanon. 
War disconnects lives, memories, and experiences by creating endless cycles of violence, murderous identities, and wounded memories. 
I have come to believe that these memories are inevitably transmitted from generation to generation in private and public spaces, and that socio-political conviviality and peace need both individual and national healing processes. Or else, the load of traumas that we carry will prevail, fueled by the continuous local and regional crises and State-sponsored amnesia. 
Growing up in war left me with a thirst to discover the truth behind the endless years spent in shelters and displacement, the survival techniques I learned, such as how to avoid snipers and land mines, the suffering following the destruction of our houses and the horrific deaths of loved ones, the fascination with war games I used to play, and the hours spent with my parents trying to look for bread. 
War has definitely marked my identity, world vision, and visual expression, and it has fueled my pursuit for connections between cultures and religions; the contemporary and the traditional; the physical and the mental; the visible and the invisible; the past, present, and future; the logos (word) and the eikon (image); humanity, the natural and the spiritual… My pursuit for peace…  Contrary to war, peace is the art of connecting. It is a continuous process encompassing historical subjectivities and energies in interpenetrative modes; a process of interacting dynamics, fragmented and common truths, voices, paths, and pathos. 
A Duwama (spiral or vortex) is a visualization of this peacebuilding process. It symbolizes life versus death, positive movement towards the manifestation of connections, and therefore, towards forgiveness, healing, and conviviality. 
Every Duwama is a story of transformation, from a shattered and disconnected situation, event, emotion or experience, to a connected realm. 

P.S.: The Duwama Collection includes 10 artworks. It was exhibited in Venice-Italy in October-November 2019 (Venice Biennale – ITSLIQUID International Art FestivalPalazzo Ca’ Zanardi). It was donated to Itsliquid Group following the exhibition.


بيكنك وصنوبر Picnic wa Snawbar (Picnic and Stone Pine Trees)
2019, Mixed Media on Recycled Paper
31 x 43 cm.

My father used to take my sister and I to a Stone Pine Trees forest when there was a ceasefire. The connection we had with him and nature helped us heal our wounds. Common in the mountains, Stone Pine Trees, also called Umbrellas, have a deep-green color, give a distinctive fragrance, and harbor loud cicadas (zeez). They have become the trademarks of Lebanese summers in the mountains, although many were lost due to shelling during the mountain war of the 1980’s. “Picnic wa Snawbar” is a story of implicit memories of survival and resilience, two qualities that allow some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find ways to rise from the ashes.


شظايا صفرة Shazaya Saffra (Yellow Bombshells)
2019, Mixed Media on Recycled Paper
31 x 43 cm.

This Duwama tells the story of bombshells and bloodshed turned into Fumana Arabica, a species of yellow flowers growing abundantly in the Spring in the Mountains of Lebanon, and symbolizing “bonds”, “nature’s renewal” and “resurrection”. 
In the ancient Southwestern Asia – Middle East – , the coming of spring was often linked to mythical tales of rebirth and resurrection. At the centre of these stories were a cast of fertility gods, such as the Phoenician god Adon (Adonis), who share similar origin stories and parallels with the Christian festival of Easter. When Adonis was killed by other male gods, drops of his blood spilled out and stained flowers. However, Ashtarut’s (Aphrodite) outpouring of love was so strong that Adonis would live again. He would stay in the hills of Byblos (Jbeil – Lebanon) for six months each year during spring and summer, and then return in the underworld for fall and winter. In his honor, “Adonis gardens” were grown by sprouting seeds in a dish which sprang up bright and green, but then perished. This was done every year in memory of his life and death.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh is a scholar, writer, visual artist, and activist. Author of several books and papers with a 20+ year experience in higher education, communication, content creation, and the arts, she has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Previously Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, she currently owns and manages a Beirut-based company offering expertise in Learning and Communication. 
http://pamelachrabiehblog.com and http://spnc.co

Ala’ Abou Fakhr, martyr de la révolution, martyr national – article dans l’Orient-le-Jour

Lire l’article complet sur le site de L’Orient-le-Jour

Le meurtre du révolutionnaire Ala’ Abou Fakhr devant son épouse et son fils a ravivé dans ma mémoire le décès de mon beau-père Gebran Badine qui fut assassiné en Irak en 2004. Dans un article que j’avais publié en 2007 dans Scriptura (Université de Montréal), je posais à l’époque les questions suivantes : « Qui est Gebran ? (et donc, qui est Ala’ ?). Vaut-il la peine d’être remémoré ? Sa mort, à l’instar de beaucoup d’autres, compte-t-elle sur l’échiquier national ? »

Depuis des décennies, les meurtres et massacres perpétrés au Liban et dans la région de l’Asie de l’Ouest ne sont plus que des événements relégués aux oubliettes, des concours de circonstances, des accidents faisant partie du lot dit normal de la guerre et des révolutions. En ce sens, la mort de Gebran, de Ala’ et de bien d’autres encore ferait partie de l’ordre des choses, du cycle de la vie et de la mort. Elle ferait partie des tragédies enfouies dans les méandres de l’histoire, jugées par des politiciens, des historiens, des institutions médiatiques et des peuples entiers, inaptes à porter le qualificatif de mal absolu, d’horreur extrême, et donc inaptes à être même pointées du doigt. Or toute guerre constitue un génocide, et tout être humain ayant péri de la folie meurtrière vaut la peine d’être remémoré, pour que justement cesse cette folie.

Au Liban, il est habituellement demandé tant aux enfants qu’aux adultes de ne pas revenir sur le passé, de taire les blessures, de se murer dans un mutisme approbateur de la fatalité du destin, privilégiant la survie sociale et politique à la survie psychique et humaine. La société entière est soumise aux chuchotements et à l’autocensure qui font que la moindre pensée subversive est automatiquement réprimée. Cette omerta, ou loi du silence, est renforcée au niveau national par l’auto-amnistie des leaders de la guerre en 1991. En effet, la loi

n° 84 du 26 août 1991 a voulu voiler le passé récent en accordant une amnistie aux criminels pour tous les actes commis avant le 28 mars 1991. Cette loi fut élaborée en fonction de critères politiques et non des droits de l’homme. Les « seigneurs de la guerre » – expression utilisée en politologie libanaise – ont fait en sorte que leurs crimes soient oubliés. Or suffit-il d’affirmer que le passé n’existe plus en droit pour qu’il cesse d’exister dans la réalité et les consciences, pour que victimes et bourreaux se valent ?

L’oubli n’est qu’une illusion, le temps nous rattrape à grandes enjambées et la souffrance nous descend, même si nous tentons de fuir. « Gare au retour du refoulé ! » avait prévenu un célèbre architecte libanais lors d’une conférence en février 2004 intitulée « Le centre-ville, exploit ou fracture ? ». Comment tourner la page sur des milliers de morts, de blessés, de disparus, de déplacés, de prisonniers, d’émigrés forcés, de destructions, d’horreurs? Comment dépasser la peur qui marque sa présence et la dépression qui suit la fin de l’espoir ? Comment envisager ce qui sera sans tenir compte de ce qui a été ?

« Je désire savoir où sont les choses futures et passées, si l’on peut dire qu’elles sont. Si cette connaissance est au-dessus de moi, au moins je suis assuré qu’en quelque lieu qu’elles soient, elles n’y sont ni futures ni passées, mais présentes, puisque si elles y sont futures, elles n’y sont pas encore, et que si elles y sont passées, elles n’y sont plus. »

Aux interrogations de saint Augustin, dans les Confessions (livre XI, chapitre XVII), répondent certaines certitudes : si l’avenir n’est pas encore et si le passé n’est plus, celui-ci n’est pas sans influencer celui-là. En ce sens, un avenir pacifié ne peut être envisageable si la politique de la tabula rasa relevant de la terre brûlée est adoptée. Celui-ci requiert la reconnaissance de la douleur en la muant en souvenir fondateur qui puisse nous en affranchir, notamment en construisant une mémoire individuelle et collective de la guerre. Dans cette perspective, la parole ou la mise en récit de l’événement traumatique occupent une place centrale dans le processus thérapeutique qui constitue la base du processus de « peacebuilding » – construction de la paix. Donner un espace de parole, d’où l’on peut s’exprimer en toute sécurité et liberté, est indispensable pour passer de la simple reviviscence à la représentation, du souvenir au « ressouvenir » – un terme utilisé par Amin Maalouf et qui signifie une réécriture, un déchiffrage, un dévoilement, un travail de critique et d’autocritique (intériorisation), un projet herméneutique, un travail de deuil, un acte refondateur, une transformation – pour qu’on puisse dire les blessures, leur attribuer un sens, les comprendre et vivre avec.

En ce sens, le principe « œil pour œil, dent pour dent », ou la culture de la vendetta, devrait être remplacé par un processus réparateur impliquant toutes les parties, constituant une manière puissante d’aborder non seulement les préjudices matériels et physiques causés par les crimes, mais aussi les préjudices sociaux, psychologiques et relationnels. Cette démarche est centrée sur la victime, et la communauté et le dialogue en sont les éléments centraux. Le but n’est pas la vengeance, mais que la vérité soit connue et qu’une reconnaissance publique soit officiellement sanctionnée. Les auteurs de crimes de guerre et de tout crime ont beau répéter que personne n’entendra les victimes, que personne ne se soucie d’elles, que personne ne le saura jamais… D’où la nécessité de faire face à ce que le journaliste Lawrence Weschler qualifie d’« instant primordial » : « Qui était là ? Qui criait ? Qui se tenait aux côtés de la victime et que faisaient-ils ? Qui encore maintenant oserait écouter ses cris ? Qui souhaite le savoir ? Qui sera tenu responsable ? Et qui leur en demandera des comptes ? »

Source: https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1195118/ala-abou-fakhr-martyr-de-la-revolution-martyr-national.html

Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East Conference Full Report

Our conference’s full report (“Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”
Ayia Napa, Cyprus, October 31 – November 2, 2019) by Karis Ailabouni:
“Inclusive societies based on equal rights remain at a distance as the Middle East continues to face radicalized religious and political movements. In light of this, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture and the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW) organized its fifth international conference entitled, “Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”, held in Cyprus from October 31 to November 2, 2019. The conference gathered 47 scholars, activists, and experts from around the world with the aim of stimulating critical dialogue on the factors that hinder equitable societies in the region. In an effort to practice inclusion, 29 (61%) of the conference participants were women, while 9 (19%) were youth under the age of 35. In addition, participants came from diverse national backgrounds. The majority hailed from the region, namely Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and UAE. However, participants also joined from the USA, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and the UK. The conference provided also a forum for Arab scholars from the diaspora to connect to their peers from the region. The forum’s diversity of participation inspired an unparalleled interdisciplinary, ecumenical, and interreligious discussion, through which participants could explore issues from multiple perspectives.

Following a welcome dinner on October 31, the event consisted of eight sessions and 22 paper presentations over two days. Sessions I and II provided a theoretical framing of inclusivity in political and theological terms. This led into sessions III and IV, which tackled gender justice as a critical form of inclusivity. On day 2, the morning consisted of two sets of parallel sessions. The first contextualized inclusivity through specific insights from Lebanon and Egypt, while the second brought unique interdisciplinary approaches to the theme- from philosophy, to germ theory, to natural resource management.

The conference also made space to include a flash panel on the revolution currently unfolding in Lebanon. As a scholarly forum rooted in everyday realities, it was necessary to include this session given its relevance to the themes of the conference and to the sociopolitical context of the region at large. Lebanese participants shared their diverse perspectives from the ground, reflecting on the opportunities and challenges of the revolution as a platform for people to affect social and political change.

Several important themes emerged from the discussions surrounding these sessions. Firstly, the bondage of minoritization and sectorization in the Middle East poses a challenge to inclusive societies. Through histories of colonialism and authoritarianism, Christians have been constructed to think of themselves as minorities and, therefore, inherently disempowered. This phenomenon calls for a radically inclusive, popular theology that rejects sectarianism.

Inclusivity, then, requires societies in the Middle East to learn from local history so that they might deconstruct oppressive power systems inherited from colonialist and authoritarian regimes. Rather than reproducing exclusivist modes of authority, there is an urgent need to build new social contracts that empower the participation of all people in public life. This necessitates not only the building of new political systems, but also a sociocultural shift in which people begin to understand political participation not as a privilege, but as an essential dimension of their being.

Therefore, there is a need to pursue a collective journey towards inclusive societies. This was brought to light in discussions tackling gender justice, as many women’s movements are already carving a place for themselves as equal citizens. For example, women are at the front lines of the revolution in Lebanon. Meanwhile, women Islamic activists in Palestine are challenging the dominant culture by studying Islam and building their religious practice. In addition, women in the Evangelical Church in Egypt are struggling to become ordained leaders in their church through subversive ministry. Youth in the Middle East are also actively excluded from participation in public life. Research presented in the conference showed youth’s growing disillusionment with their future. Although they are eager to better their own community, many feel they must ultimately go abroad to realize their dreams. The problematic of Arab youth and women’s exclusion calls for participatory processes that allow the marginalized in society to make their voices heard.

Finally, the conference concluded with a discussion of pressing topics that might be addressed in future conferences. The recommendations emphasized by participants included the following:

Public theology of the religious other
Liberation from exploitation and authoritarianism
Technology, Religion and virtual realities
The role of education in social change, peace, and reconciliation

CAFCAW executive committee decided to choose the theme of Education for the next year with a working title “The Future of Education in West Asia and North Africa: Education for the Future.”

The conference was utilized as a platform to launch Telos magazine (www.telosmagazine.org), a new online magazine with a focus on public theology.

In addition to the stimulating discussions that surrounded these sessions, one of the greatest successes of the conference occurred informally. Academics and activists from around the world were able to build new connections with one another, creating a network where ideas and experiences could be exchanged. As one participant noted, the conference succeeded in developing a community of scholars and practitioners. This allowed not only for rich and critical dialogue, but also opened endless possibilities for future”.

Source: Dar al Kalima University of Arts and Culture

CAFCAW Executive Committee
Telos Wana Magazine Editorial Committee

Standing Together in a World Divided – Bangkok Consultation

My video conference has been screened a few hours ago in Bangkok – Thailand.

STANDING TOGETHER IN A WORLD DIVIDED – Consultation developed by the Presbyterian World Mission and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), (PCUSA).
Bangkok – Thailand, November 1-6, 2019.
My paper will be available in due time (“Christian Responses in Western Asia: Case Studies”).

Full video here.

عن الحوار الإسلامي المسيحي، ذاكرة الحرب وبناء السلام في لبنان

Interested in the subject on Interfaith Dialogue, War Memory and Peacebuilding? This is the full version of my article, and you can have access to the PDF file on Telos’ site: https://www.telosmagazine.org/

اليأس هو فقط لأولئك الذين يرون النهاية بما لا يدع مجالا للشك. نحن لا نراها!

بدأت الثورة الفعلية في لبنان منذ أكثر من ثلاثة عقود مع عدد لا يحصى من الناشطين والمجموعات والمنظمات المحلية والعابرة للحدود. الثورة سلسلة من المواقف والمبادرات والأصوات والتعبيرات والممارسات والديناميات، إلى جانب الاحتجاجات الشعبية. انها صيرورة …

يشكل الأسبوعان الأخيران بالتأكيد خطوة أخرى في هذه الصيرورة التي لن تنتهي قبل أن نبني مجتمعًا سلميًا وديمقراطيًا وشاملًا لجميع اللبنانيين.

كيف؟ بالإصرار دائما على استخدام النضال السلمي في مواجهة الأنظمة الشموليّة والديكتاتوريّة. هذا ليس سهلاً في منطقة لطالما خضعت لقواعد لعبة مختلفة، حيث كان التغيير يأتي عبر إنقلابات عسكريّة يقودها ضباط وعسكر.

ليس النضال السلمي استسلام وخضوع للقوي. أن يواجه المدنيون السلميون العنف الجسدي والمعنوي والرصاص بالصدر العاري يلزمه شجاعة أكبر من مواجهة الرصاص بالرصاص.

الآن ليس الوقت المناسب لليأس، ولا للتراجع. “اليأس هو فقط لأولئك الذين يرون النهاية بما لا يدع مجالا للشك. نحن لا نراها”.

لا للحرب ولا للنظام… اريد لبنان للجميع

انا جزء مما يسمى “جيل الحرب”. لقد ولدت وترعرعت في حرب السبعينيات والثمانينيات من القرن الماضي. لقد شهدت إراقة دماء ونجوت من القناصة والقنابل. أصبحت ناشطة سلام عندما كنت مراهقة وأقسمت أنني سأكرس حياتي للمساهمة في إنهاء الحرب. لقد ناضلت من أجل ثقافة السلام من خلال التعليم والفن والكتابة والنشاط الاجتماعي في لبنان والخارج، وسأواصل القيام بذلك ، بشكل فردي ومع الآخرين.

ما شهدناه في آخر 9 أيام في لبنان هو ظاهرة فريدة. أكثر من ثلث السكان يتجمعون ضد نظام فاسد يمثل أحد الأسباب الرئيسية للأزمات الاجتماعية والاقتصادية. ظاهرة فريدة من نوعها بسبب لامركزيتها، عفويتها ومصداقيتها. فريدة من نوعها لتعدد الأجيال والهويات الاجتماعية والثقافية. فريدة من نوعها بسبب تضامن خلاق بين وعبر الاختلافات.

من المؤكد أن هناك مجموعات وقوى محلية وإقليمية ودولية تستغل إيمان الناس ورؤاهم وأحلامهم وثوراتهم وانتفاضاتهم في جميع السياقات، بما في ذلك في لبنان، لكن هذا لا يعني أن تطلعات وممارسات الناس المتنوعة نحو لبنان أفضل باطلة، غير مجدية او مأجورة.

لا أريد حرباً أهلية ولا نظام طائفي.
لا أريد فراغًا سياسيًا ، ولا أمراء الحرب والسياسيين الفاسدين.
لا أريد الزواج بين الدين والسياسة ولا التخلص من الناس الذين لديهم إنتماء ديني.
لا أريد تلويث العقول وبيئتنا. و لا أريد الامساواة في الحقوق والفرص.
لا أريد مجتمعًا منقسمًا بين 8 و 14 آذار ، ولا بين مؤيد وضد ثورة.
لا أريد مجتمعًا قائمًا على التفرد ولا على الاقصاء.


أريد أن أعيش في مجتمع متحد في تنوعه.
أريد أن أعيش في سلام وأريد أن يعيش اللبنانيون من جميع الخلفيات والأجيال في سلام مع بعضهم البعض. اريد ان اعيش في لبنان لي، لك، لنا ولكم.

اريد لبنان للجميع.

Artist Pamela Chrabieh’s “Peace Collection” in Indelible Dubai

I was born and raised in the 1970s-1980s war in Lebanon. My experience as a war survivor has marked my writing and art, as has fueld my quest for peace. As I see it, peace is not only about ceasefires, the end of bloodshed, the absence of hostilities, and a state of mutual concord between governments, as war is both “physical” and “psychological”. Peace is about accountability for violence, openness, generosity, clemency, and catharsis. Peace is and should be a transformation process within mindsets, a celebration of interconnected life and unity in the diversity of complex identities. As long as the legacy of violence is not addressed within ourselves and our societies, we will remain lost, cut off from connection, living in a never-ending apocalypse of carnages and tortured souls and bodies.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh is a scholar, writer, visual artist, and activist. Author of several books and papers with a 20+ year experience in higher education, communication, content creation, and the arts, she has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. Previously Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, she currently owns and manages a Beirut-based company offering expertise in Learning and Communication. 
http://pamelachrabiehblog.com and http://spnc.co

Source: Indelible