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Beirut Spring Festival remembers the Nakba
May 21, 2018
Author: Maghie Ghali
Source: The Daily Star

The 10th edition of Beirut Spring Festival opened early this year, with “70 Years of the Nakba,” an outdoor photo exhibition at the Samir Kassir Square, commemorating seven decades since the 1948
Palestinian displacement.
Displayed in light boxes, 20 photos by Palestinian artists and photographers set out to show an alternative side to Palestinian culture.
“I wanted to show the variance and plurality of Palestinian life,” curator Liana Kassir told The Daily Star. “It’s still alive but every time we talk about Palestine we talk about death. I wanted to highlight something that gives a bit of hope in this situation.”
Kassir stressed the importance of showing the exhibition in a public space, open to all social circles. With most photos of Palestine shown in Lebanon coming via media outlets, she felt that it was necessary to give the public a more balanced view.
“I tried to offer a complete image of Palestinian identity and started with about 50 photos, taking out one at a time until I had a selection that meant something to me,” Kassir recalled. “There are already so many pictures and images in the world so the photos I chose had to show something poignant.”
The photos on show offer a varied look at Palestinian life, history and culture, with each photographer presenting a different aspect or their own personal view of the situation.
“The photographers are varied in their techniques, not just their content. Some come from a background of video, visual arts or photo journalism,” Kassir said. “We also have some junior photographers because we wanted to support young art and some have produced amazing work.
We’ve showcased a wide range of talents, ages and subjects.
“Some have a sense of spontaneity, like the ones taken by photo journalists, which show scenes from conflicts, or the one of kids jumping and learning parkour,” she said, referring to Mohammad Salem’s “Gaza Parkour.” “Some are landscapes, like Rula Halawani’s ‘Untitled 23,’ which has no people in it and is about the disappearance of Palestinians from history and that the land is becoming only a memory.”
First organized by the Samir Kassir Foundation in 2009, the Beirut Spring Festival annually offers a multidisciplinary program inspired by themes of tolerance and cultural diversity – free of charge. The event was founded as a tribute to Kassir, a Lebanese-French journalist, editorialist and educator of Syrian and Palestinian heritage who was assassinated in 2005.
“The festival takes its name from the one of the last articles he wrote in An-Nahar newspaper called Beirut Spring,’” festival director Randa Asmar said, “and we decided that the best way to remember him would be to hold this cultural, artistic festival that carries his name around the date he died.”
The five-day performance program of this year’s festival opens June 3 and will be staged in various venues around Beirut.
“Every year we have new shows that have had success, to offer it to the Lebanese people who might not have the opportunity to see them otherwise, especially since they’re all free,” Asmar said. “This year we’re opening with a concert by Palestinian artist Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and his band, who have been touring Europe recently, and will pay tribute to the memory of the Nakba that we’re commemorating today.”
For the second show, June 4, Tunisian artist Lofti Bouchnak will perform at MusicHall Waterfront.
British contemporary dancer Aakash Odedra, whose work fuses modern and traditional Indian dance styles, will follow with a performance at Masrah al-Madina on June 5.
The closing performance, June 7, is “A Flight over the City,” a theater play for puppets featuring the Yerevan State Puppet Theater, the largest of its kind in Armenia.