Exhibition of photos chronicling social unrest in Lebanon opens in Washington DC

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A woman dances on October 18, 2019, day two of the uprisings in Jounieh.
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Lebanese motorists drive by a fire in Beirut on the first day of protests against the government’s newly established WhatsApp tax, which ignited the Lebanese popular uprising against years of economic and political mismanagement.
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Aida sits in her living room next to a photo of her husband Kamal Geadah. On August 19, 1985, Kamal was riding back home from work with his nephew when they were stopped at a checkpoint. Both of them were taken away and never seen again.
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On the 90th day of the uprising, a protester jumps over burning tires used to block the road in Beirut’s Saifi district.
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Updated 09 July 2020

Exhibition of photos chronicling social unrest in Lebanon opens in Washington DC

  • MEI’s ‘Lebanon Then and Now’ showcases upheaval from 2006 onwards

BEIRUT: The Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI) will launch its online exhibition “Lebanon Then and Now — Photography from 2006 to 2020” this weekend.

The show, which runs until September 25, focuses on the lingering effects of Lebanon’s civil war, highlighted by the uprisings that began in the fall and continue today as Lebanon faces its worse post-war crisis amid economic and political chaos.

Rita Nammour, chairperson of the Beirut Museum of Art, USA and president of the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL), both of which collaborated with the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in partnership with MEI to co-produce the show, said that “Lebanon Then and Now” couldn’t be more timely.

“We are living in a nightmare,” she said. “Lebanon’s currency has been devalued to alarming levels and poverty is soaring. Hopes and dreams expressed in the early days of Lebanon’s protests appear shattered, but people are holding on.”

Nammour hopes the exhibition can “remind the world of Lebanon’s aspirations for a better future.”

The immersive virtual exhibition offers a tour of images captured by 17 photographers and a filmmaker that show the dizzying social, political, and economic upheavals that have rocked Lebanon for the past 16 years.

Lyne Sneige, director of the MEI Arts and Culture Center described the content of the show. “Some of Lebanon’s finest young photographers chronicle the tensions and the unresolved issues that led to the current crisis in response to the country’s political and financial collapse,” she said.

Lebanon-based curator Chantale Fahmi selected the images from two recent exhibitions: The IMA’s “Lebanon: Between Reality and Fiction,” which opened in Paris in September 2019 and APEAL’s “Revolt,” held in the heart of Beirut, which showcased large-scale reproductions mounted outside the dilapidated Egg — which Fahmi described as “the hollow ruin of a wartime cinema that became a hub for intellectuals, academics, activists and students seeking to make sense of a set of circumstances gripping the country by the throat.”

Fahmi sought to weave themes from the Paris and Beirut shows into a tapestry of suppressed and unaddressed injustices and war legacies. “The collection illuminates the power of photography, both artistic and journalistic, as a conveyor of reality and emotion,” she explained.

Fahmi added that Lebanon’s photography sector has been “developing in exciting way” over the past decade, with photographers working with foreign news agencies and taking advantage of Lebanon’s vibrant arts scene to nurture their talent.

Kate Seelye, vice president for arts and culture programs at MEI, said: “The recasting of the two exhibitions will deepen the understanding of how the past informs and shapes the present. Additionally, this show speaks to the importance of international collaborations, as galleries like ours seek to replace physical audiences with global eyeballs for now.”

 


Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

Updated 27 min 58 sec ago

Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

  • 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures
  • A source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored

BEIRUT: Initial investigations indicate years of inaction and negligence over the storage of highly explosive material in Beirut port caused the blast that killed over 100 people on Tuesday, an official source familiar with the findings said.
The prime minister and presidency said on Tuesday that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
"It is negligence," the official source told Reuters, adding that the storage safety issue had been before several committees and judges and "nothing was done" to issue an order to remove or dispose of the highly combustible material.
The source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
Tuesday's explosion was the most powerful ever suffered by Beirut, a city is still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from a deep financial crisis rooted in decades of corruption and economic mismanagement.
Badri Daher, Director General of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.
"We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why," Daher said.
Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would "blow up all of Beirut".
According to two documents seen by Reuters, Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to ask the "concerned maritime agency" to re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, removed from the a cargo vessel, Rhosus, and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.
One of the documents cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015.
"A local and international investigation needs to be conducted into the incident, given the scale and the circumstances under which these goods were brought into the ports," said Ghassan Hasbani, former deputy prime minister and a member of the Lebanese Forces party.
Shiparrested.com, an industry network dealing with legal cases, had said in a 2015 report that the Rhosus, sailing under a Moldovan flag, docked in Beirut in September 2013 when it had technical problems while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
It said that, upon inspection, the vessel was forbidden from sailing and shortly afterwards it was abandoned by its owners, leading to various creditors coming forward with legal claims.
"Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port's warehouses," it added.