Arab Today, arab today the mixed feelings of national identity
Last Updated : GMT 04:13:50
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

The mixed feelings of national identity

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today The mixed feelings of national identity

Beirut - Arabstoday

The images are simple, neither formally complex nor conceptually grounded. Along the staircase entryway and around the two-room gallery space of Dar al-Mussawir, a series of classic portraits by photographer Marta Bogdanska are hung at eyelevel. Each of her subjects, photographed against a white backdrop, looks directly at the viewer, their expressions candid or smiling, coy or playful. “They are straightforward and energetic, good portraits,” says Bogdanska. “You don’t need to oversell when the work is good,” adds Nisreen Kaj, the photographer’s collaborator on this project. The power of the duo’s work lies in uncovering the three commonalities linking their 30 subjects. None looks classically Lebanese, yet all bear Lebanese names and hail from Lebanese towns. The images themselves reveal the first of these; each portrait’s exhibit tag discloses the context. Scattered between the portraits are prints of the same size bearing unattributed quotations collected by Kaj, who works as a copywriter and activist. The texts reveal the subjects’ experience of otherness, exclusion, racism and stereotyping. “They used to call my mom a monkey,” one quotation reads. “They always make you feel different and a stranger,” remarks another. A third recollects an inquiry – “Sorry I want to ask you: We need a maid to clean the house, can you ... are you free?” In “Mixed Messages,” as Bogdanska and Kaj’s exhibition is titled, portraits of people of African- or Asian-Lebanese descent become a conduit for questions of race, racialization, other-ing and, ultimately, identity. What does it mean to belong or not belong in Lebanese society? Speaking to The Daily Star the morning after the exhibition opened, Kaj explained that in Lebanon the debate on racism is focused on “binary lines of opposition.” When racism is addressed in society, she says, the discussion centers on migrant domestic workers, usually comprised of individuals of African and Asian origin. In relation to this group, it’s easy for Lebanese to draw an “us and them” distinction. “We are what they are not,” says Kaj – namely, Lebanese. Kaj and Bogdanska first met two years ago, and last year Kaj invited Bogdanska to join her in exploring a third facet of the racism issue in Lebanon: the group of Lebanese citizens who are linguistically and culturally at home in the Levant, but who find themselves eternally labeled and ostracized as different. Upon embarking on the project, the duo quickly discovered that their target group contained a wealth of frustration and anger. Meeting their subjects and taking their portraits, the pair found they were also giving individuals the “opportunity to discuss what they were feeling.” Some were shy at first, but slowly their stories, and the patterns shared among those stories, emerged. The conclusion was apparent: It’s not easy being Lebanese if you don’t look Lebanese. Indeed, the artists say that living here is so challenging that some participants expressed a desire to leave Lebanon as soon as possible. In Lebanon, Kaj explains, “classism is tied to negative stereotyping and becomes an excuse for racism.” For example, a Lebanese will claim that they treat their Sri Lankan maid in accordance with how they would treat a person of any race or nationality working in that profession. Putting aside how domestic workers are actually treated, this attitude easily elides with racism, when South Asians are automatically treated as maids. The exhibition’s strength lies in its sheer simplicity, yet it doesn’t overlook the complexity of racism, in both its active and passive forms. A three-page text, distributed at the exhibition’s opening, breaks down the experiences of Bogdanska and Kaj’s subjects into three themes: Racism by youth against youth; boundary building and identity fetishism; stereotyping, racialization, racism. Each of these themes is illustrated with quotations from the subjects. In the “identity fetishism” theme, for instance, one participant is quoted as saying, “True, Lebanese are dark ... but your darkness is different than their darkness.” Kaj can personally attest to such experience. She is Lebanese Nigerian, but she looks more Nigerian than Lebanese, meaning she is regularly identified as the former and treated accordingly – as a domestic worker or a sex worker, for instance. Yet, as family members have pointed out, her skin is no lighter or darker than that of some of her Lebanese cousins. Lebanese-Australian scholar Ghassan Hage has worked on developing a theory of identity fetishism, Kaj says, using the Lebanese Maronite community in his research. Within this community, whiteness is often a common identifier among people who are not typically white, adds Bogdanska. Regardless of their profession or class, members of the group use their aspirational whiteness to separate themselves from groups that they consider beneath them. “Racism is not about color,” concludes Kaj. “It’s about processes assigned to that color.” “Mixed Feelings” aims to explore and break down such notions but, while the collaborators were thrilled by the turnout at the show’s opening and the panel discussion that followed, “we’re preaching to the converted,” Kaj acknowledges. As is oft typical at such events, those attending the show’s opening included an assortment of conscientious NGO workers, United Nations agency representatives, activists and journalists. Some of the friends and families of Bogdanska’s subjects were also present, which pleased the artists. The objective now is to build on the momentum. Kaj and Bogdanska describe the Dar al-Mussawir exhibition as “phase one,” but they’re still unsure what form “phase two” will take. Stay tuned. “Mixed Feelings” is up at Dar al-Mussawir until July 18. For more information please contact 01-373-347. From TheDailyStar

arabstoday
arabstoday

Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

Arab Today, arab today the mixed feelings of national identity Arab Today, arab today the mixed feelings of national identity

 



Name *

E-mail *

Comment Title*

Comment *

: Characters Left

Mandatory *

Terms of use

Publishing Terms: Not to offend the author, or to persons or sanctities or attacking religions or divine self. And stay away from sectarian and racial incitement and insults.

I agree with the Terms of Use

Security Code*

Arab Today, arab today the mixed feelings of national identity Arab Today, arab today the mixed feelings of national identity

 



Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Youssra depended on colored foam

GMT 16:53 2017 Tuesday ,05 September

Youssra depended on colored foam
Arab Today, arab today Airbus CEO says won't cling to job

GMT 06:52 2017 Monday ,16 October

Airbus CEO says won't cling to job
Arab Today, arab today Etiquette expert underlines importance of gifts

GMT 17:52 2017 Sunday ,03 September

Etiquette expert underlines importance of gifts
Arab Today, arab today 'Final phase' of battle for Raqa

GMT 03:47 2017 Monday ,16 October

'Final phase' of battle for Raqa
Arab Today, arab today Iran's Facebook shuts down

GMT 23:50 2017 Monday ,16 October

Iran's Facebook shuts down
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today Sidem reveals plan to improve education

GMT 15:52 2017 Friday ,06 October

Sidem reveals plan to improve education
Arab Today, arab today British actress becomes fifth woman

GMT 18:15 2017 Monday ,16 October

British actress becomes fifth woman
Arab Today, arab today India to close colonial-era military farms

GMT 18:49 2017 Monday ,16 October

India to close colonial-era military farms
Arab Today, arab today The history of solar eclipses

GMT 05:16 2017 Sunday ,20 August

The history of solar eclipses
Arab Today, arab today Britain's Vauxhall to cut 400 jobs

GMT 10:53 2017 Sunday ,15 October

Britain's Vauxhall to cut 400 jobs
Arab Today, arab today Norway seeks 'Tesla tax' on electric cars

GMT 08:17 2017 Friday ,13 October

Norway seeks 'Tesla tax' on electric cars
Arab Today, arab today Safaa Sultan happy for “Love School”

GMT 10:55 2017 Thursday ,12 October

Safaa Sultan happy for “Love School”
Arab Today, arab today Conservation cutbacks put Brazil's

GMT 12:02 2017 Saturday ,14 October

Conservation cutbacks put Brazil's

GMT 10:19 2017 Wednesday ,11 October

Bosy reveals behind her participation in festival

GMT 10:37 2017 Thursday ,12 October

Cara Delevingne accuses Weinstein

GMT 16:53 2017 Saturday ,02 September

Mai importance of gifts during Eid Al-Adha

GMT 10:20 2017 Thursday ,12 October

Chad extends key conservation area

GMT 10:46 2017 Saturday ,05 August

Nanis reveals simple ideas for home renovation

GMT 12:25 2017 Saturday ,14 October

Squeeze on UK health gives advanced

GMT 07:16 2017 Friday ,13 October

Lufthansa to swallow lion's share

GMT 17:12 2017 Monday ,07 August

Al-Shawaifi reveals secrets of total solar eclipse

GMT 03:59 2017 Sunday ,15 October

US mobile carriers Sprint, T-Mobile to merge

GMT 11:37 2017 Saturday ,12 August

Fashion designer reveals her new collection
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
 
 Arab Today Facebook,arab today facebook  Arab Today Twitter,arab today twitter Arab Today Rss,arab today rss  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube  Arab Today Youtube,arab today youtube
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday arabstoday arabstoday
arabstoday
بناية النخيل - رأس النبع _ خلف السفارة الفرنسية _بيروت - لبنان
arabstoday, Arabstoday, Arabstoday