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MOTHERLAND

Art

Du 21/11/2022 à 16:00 jusqu'au 30/11/2022 à 16:00

‘Motherland’ is a special ceremony to remember the Lebanese Independence day through the way of the Lebanese Guides Syndicate and a constellation of different moments in recent Lebanese history, seen through the eyes of artist Tom Young. As such, it is subjective and ‘current’ history seen through the lens of the present moment in 2022. It is not intended as a complete chronological history, but a statement of dramatic contrast between an original idealistic vision for a country, the chaotic circumstances in which it was founded in the early 20th Century and the current state of multiple crises. Yet all is not negative, for life rarely is in Lebanon: It is always a paradox of opposites within the whole: the mythical symbols of the Cedar tree, and white snows of Mount Lebanon (after which the country is named) transcend human struggles going on down below. And the spirit of ordinary people, somehow defies belief, continuing to shine in adversity.

 

The exhibition is divided into different sections which are all self-contained yet related: not unlike the tribal sectarian mosaic of Lebanon itself. The exhibition begins with paintings about the struggle for independence in 1943, which arose out of the struggle for colonial power and influence between France and Britain. Young worked for several months in 2016-17 in the former residence (in Zarif, Beirut) of General Spears, the British Minister for Lebanon from 1941-44. Young discovered a remarkable and largely unknown story of a maverick who went out of his way to support the Lebanese quest for Independence, and after it was achieved in 1943, was fired for doing so. There is a surprising personal connection here too: Young’s own cousin Colonel Isham was a military advisor to General Spears at the height of the Independence crisis in Beirut in 1943.

 

During his research, Young was also inspired by the largely unknown role of women in Lebanese Independence, which has been repeated in recent protest movements, as well as the inspiring story of Mary Borden (Lady Spears), poet, painter, nurse and women’s rights activist. Prints of some of her rarely seen paintings of Lebanon in the 1940’s will be exhibited alongside Young’s.

 

Yet, the messy and chaotic way in which Lebanese ‘Independence’ was achieved, in the middle of a World War set the stage for a system of crippling corruption and division which, exacerbated by tumultuous regional events in neighbouring countries led to the Civil War in Lebanon (1975-90), and the multiple crises of recent times culminating in the port explosion in 2020, and the subsequent economic collapse.

Young’s work touches on these themes, as he has lived through it during the past 13 years as a resident of Beirut; his home and studio were badly damaged in the explosion. He channelled the passion and energy of the attempted Thawra in 2019, witnessed the trauma of destruction in 2020 and the subsequent reconstruction and cultural revival of his beloved home neighbourhoods of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael.

 

The economic collapse is dealt with in particular detail in the exhibition, with the ‘Lollar’ project (2022). On show will be previously unseen paintings of current crises in Lebanon, made for an anti-corruption campaign shortly before the General Election this year. Young produced artwork for mock-banknotes of ‘Lollars’, the slang term used for devalued and inaccessible money held in Lebanese banks. The campaign for LTA (Lebanese Transparency Association), and produced by Leo Burnett in collaboration with Young.

 

There are many subtexts in the exhibition, such as Young’s personal connections and identification with Lebanon, most notably how the sudden loss of his mother at the age of 10 led to an identification with a country which has experienced so much loss. Yet he doesn’t dwell on that: it is a starting point, from which the healing power of art can be harnessed and used to transform loss and pain into something beautiful. It is a complex and rich narrative between the personal and the national, across time, space and identity, which are in a state of constant transition.

 

 

Events:

 

21st November: the opening will include honouring the governor of Beirut Judge Marwan Abboud, a presentation and discussion by academic Dr Issam Khalife, honouring the musician Elie Shwairy by having a music show and a presentation and discussion by Dr Joseph Issa

 

Friday 25th November: a film screening of ‘Sidon Through Travellers Eyes (1610-1918)’, a lecture by Tom Young’s father His Honour Christopher Young about the history of Sidon (Saida), location of Tom Young’s on-going exhibition ‘Revival’ at Hammam Al Jadeed. The film is co-produced and edited by Jad Kas of BoomBox Studios in Beirut, and explores the historic connections of Lebanon with Britain and France, which resonate with the ‘Motherland’ exhibition.

 

Wednesday 30th November: screening of ‘Connections’, a film by Tony El Khoury (director of award winning ‘Lebanon Wins the World Cup’), exploring the Spears narrative in Lebanon, the women’s movement in Lebanon in 1943, and Tom Young’s identification with Lady Spears.

 

Young will hold art workshops for children and students throughout the exhibition, and visitors will be encouraged to offer their own views and ideas about the themes on show.

 

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