Global displacement and migration are defining issues of the 21st century. Changes in worldwide economies, climate and political landscapes are forcing huge populations to undertake arduous journeys with hopes of escape. Making the decision whether to leave or stay, has become commonplace for many on this planet with neither option presenting an immediate solution, as the imbalance is systemic throughout our civilization.
In response to these global issues and their devastating effects on vast populations and cultures, East Wing presents, Rising from the Shadows, an exhibition of photography and video by Leila Alaoui, Tanya Habjouqa, Omar Imam and Issa Touma, four award-winning artists who use their unique humanistic perspective to reflect on preservation in conflict. All four artists have devoted an enormous part of themselves to documenting the growing wave of instability; using photography to illustrate both the tenacious fight of those who choose to remain at home, no matter what the cost, and the real life hardships experienced by others who risk everything, altering their lives irreparably in the process. Included in Rising from the Shadows is “Crossing”, the video installation by French Moroccan artist, Leila Alaoui, who was tragically killed while on assignment for Amnesty International in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in January. This work was just one part of Alaoui’s study on migration and reflects on the experience of sub-Saharan migrants who embark on the perilous journey to reach the elusive shores of Europe. Focusing on the collective trauma provoked by the embodied experience of crossing boundaries and becoming a fragile community in a new habitat. Alaoui’s work explores the experiential textures of psychological and physical transition and gestures towards the concept of Europe as a problematic utopia in the African imagination. Issa Touma’s “Women We Have Not Lost Yet and Other Stories From Aleppo”, gives voice to a group of young women who have chosen to remain in their home town despite five years of devastating conflict. These young women, drawn from various ethnicities and religions, struggle to live in Aleppo, the largest metropolis in Syria and one of the oldest human settlements in the world, which is now at risk of disappearing. Touma’s photographic portraits provide these women with a platform to explain their motivations and relate daily experiences. New work by Tanya Habjouqa; Tomorrow There will be Apricots, documents the Syrian “Wives of Martyrs” who are struggling to find a sense of normalcy in the dusty Jordanian border town of Ramtha, which lies painfully close to the home and life they once had in Deraa. The burdens of violence are present in their scant belongings, heavy mementos to remind themselves of those they lost in the war. Digital era
lockets: cherished cell phone images of dead fathers, husbands, and brothers lost to Syria’s bloody uprising. “Tomorrow There Will be Apricots” is a popular proverb in the Levant, which means, “Tomorrow never comes.” Habjouqa explores the intimacies of everyday life of four families headed by wives who have lost their fighter husbands to the civil war. Exposing the quiet celebrations and daydreams of these wives and daughters, who now live in a building donated by a Qatari patron, despite traditions that frown upon displays of joy for single women, who are already caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, isolation, and anxiety. “Tomorrow There Will be Apricots” is a poetic reflection on joy and dedication in desperate situations. Omar Imam’s Live Love Refugee approaches the mental state of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, focusing specifically on how relationships and dreams are affected by conflict and displacement. Working with his subjects in an theatrical way, they act out their personal stories of the pain and desire through the surreal re-telling of the experiences they encountered as they crossed multiple borders to escape their war torn country.
- Tanya Habouqa Apricots
- Omar Imam
- Habjouqa Apricots