Born Among Mirrors | Najib Joe Hakim

SIDE GALLERY: 10.18.08 – 11.2.08

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In October 2006 I visited my birthplace, Beirut, Lebanon. Barely three months had passed since the latest war with Israel had destroyed much of the country—over a thousand killed, fifteen thousand homes leveled, every major bridge and highway damaged or destroyed—and perhaps most damning, millions of unexploded cluster bombs holding the future hostage.

I didn’t exactly go to document the destruction—those images had made the nightly news ten times over. Instead, I went looking for what persisted in the land where I was born. Fifty years had passed since my family left Lebanon for America—my parents refugees from Palestine, my brother and I babes in arms. And thirty years had passed since my last visit. In that time, Lebanon had suffered a long civil war, several Israeli invasions, Syrian and Israeli occupation, rebuilding and re-destroying.

But I encountered what seemingly can not be destroyed—the character of a resilient people who defied their savage and surreal world as they picked up the pieces, built devotional altars to their gods and heroes, and went about their routines—every cup of coffee enjoyed, candle lit, cigarette smoked an affirmation. Like fishermen daily repairing their nets, the Lebanese were already rebuilding—yet again. And I found their undiminished determination inspiring.