Words put the carillon of madness into our veins.
Nadia TUENI, Sentimental Archives of a War in Lebanon.
Walls of Shame. “As the war broke out in Lebanon, graffiti war became inevitable; people died, official information was not entirely absent, rather merely “comforting”, and privately-owned media were muzzled. Truth resided only in what was not said”, writes journalist Maria Chakhtoura in her book La Guerre des graffiti (Graffiti War), Editions An-Nahar, 1978, republished in 2005.
With the collapse of the state, the parties engaging in the war would let their militiamen, burned, charred or riddled with bullets, unleash onto walls their hate, their anger and their commitment. As improvised representatives for various parties, from near and far, these two-dimensional spaces soon became walls of shame for many Lebanese people.
Since the end of the hostilities, most of these walls have disappeared while other glitzy new ones have replaced them. The words have been deleted, forgotten, and yet, these words have mobilised and caused fanaticism. How do these walls, bearers of slogans for which so many Lebanese people have died, figure nowadays in the collective memory? As photo-souvenirs of an era or bearers of hopes for times of peace?This exhibition of photographs taken all over Lebanon by Maria Chakhtoura between 1975 and 1977 during her reportage trips, often risking her own life, attempts to answer these questions.
Maria Chakhtoura is a journalist. Between 1975 and 2015 she was part of the editorial team at the daily French free-expression newspaper, L’Orient-Le-Jour, notably occupying the role as cultural editor from 1990. Maria Chakhtoura also taught at the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at the Beirut Saint-Joseph University. A member of the Standing Committee of the International Mediterranean Women’s Forum – Unesco and of the Beirut Art Film Festival (BAFF), she is the author of several publications: La Guerre des graffiti, Geneviève Gemayel, La Gardienne du clan (self-published 2000) and Mémoire de survie (Editions L’Orient Le Jour, 2008).La Guerre des graffiti (Graffiti War) is a book conceived as a dialogue between militiamen from all sides, on and across walls: the hitherto unseen concept of La guerre des graffiti makes it a reference book on more than one level.