THE BREAKDOWN Hayat Nazer — ‘Lady Liberty of Lebanon’

THE BREAKDOWN Hayat Nazer — ‘Lady Liberty of Lebanon’
Hayat Nazer is a Lebanese artist and activist. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 November 2020

THE BREAKDOWN Hayat Nazer — ‘Lady Liberty of Lebanon’

THE BREAKDOWN Hayat Nazer — ‘Lady Liberty of Lebanon’
  • The Lebanese artist and activist discusses her new sculpture near Port of Beirut, constructed using debris from the August 4 explosion there

DUBAI: On the day of the explosion, I was on my way to Beirut. I was shocked and in denial. I couldn’t believe what happened. I called for volunteers through my social media, providing them with brooms to go to people’s homes and help them clean up.

We went to their homes to remove the broken glass, adjust their furniture and fix damaged doors. We didn’t know where to put the pieces of glass, so I took them home, which is also my atelier.

Before the explosion, I had begun this sculpture, which was about a woman as a vase. I heard the song “Lady of the World, O Beirut,” which was moving and made me think that Beirut is a woman, for many reasons.

I saw the destruction and broken glass all around me and started putting them in this sculpture, which I remade. I included a red blanket of mine — its red color symbolizes blood and those who died.

I wanted to include a clock and, by coincidence, I found a broken one on the ground — stopped at 6:08 — and placed it in the sculpture. I also went into people’s homes in the Karantina, Gemmayze, and Mar Mikhael areas, asking them to give me broken things that they didn’t need anymore.

I would tell them that I wanted to collaborate with them. In my work, I always loved the idea of collaboration — hand in hand, just like how we have to build this country together.

I wanted to create a memorial, so they gave me their most valuable objects that brought tears to my eyes. A man gave me a toy he used to play with when he was young, a woman gave me a shell that she kept from the days of the civil war, and another woman gave me a lighter that she saved and polished. It belonged to her husband, who was killed in the war.

I would like to take these people’s memories and make a bigger memorial — a replica of this statue — because this explosion was enormous, affecting Lebanon and all of us.