Fourteen colour photographs.
Children, girls and boys of various ages, standing up, giving their back to the camera. They face the wall. Some of them stand at a distance in an evident way while others seem to blend with the wall.
Is it an impression of immobility, passivity and resignation in front of an obtuse obstacle, a blocked horizon? Certainly not. A quiet but fierce confrontation bursts each image. A confrontation between these resilient children’s bodies and the stubborn mass that seems to separate them from there, beyond there. Beyond the rejection of exchange of the Other’s difference, of dialogue and the appetite of living together, just living.
Fourteen colour photographs that symbolise hope, a resistance facing the blind obscurantism of certain Men, facing the destructive spiral of war, facing the dangers of History’s oblivion and the excesses of Memory.
A committed photographer
Rima Maroun is a young 26 year-old Lebanese photographer who founded the “Kahraba” platform, a platform for artists coming from different trends and domains. It’s true that there exists an Arab Image Foundation, a non-profitable organisation created in Beirut in 1997 and whose aim is to preserve and study photographs of the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab Diaspora in the world. The photographic archives of this Foundation have been gradually enhanced over time. However, photography initiatives (in terms of thought, reflection, trends) are sorely missing in Lebanon where paradoxically there is so much to say, to narrate, to engrave on a film.
Fascinated by this “trace of reality, this coded and undeniable language, this instrument and tool of testimony permitting, artistically, to point one’s finger, to denounce, to raise awareness”, Rima has travelled in the South of Lebanon for three weeks after the cease-fire following the bloody war of July 2006, camera around the neck and craving for testimonies.
Rima felt indeed disgusted by today’s war journalism that deals with war in such a frontal, direct way, focusing on provoking emotions through scandal photographs that shock. They also play with extreme violence in order to stimulate public opinion that has become blunt because it is saturated by images that provoke nothing but an occasional and instant reaction. Rima finds this process too easy and disrespectful towards mutilated bodies displayed in such a conspicuous and indecent way. She wished to show the absurdity of war and butchery in a different way, with a delicacy that does not diminish the evocative power of the developed images.
Apart from a short documentary about a family that survived the massacre of Cana in 2006 (the Ahamad Chalhoub family who hosted Rima for two weeks), another project has taken shape. Children are photographed from behind, standing against walls. “I wanted to look away from these children that have so suddenly become hard, adult, tragic and painfully aware. I wanted to avoid playing with ease on the emotion of the viewer”.
The fourteen photographs in question, gathered in an aptly titled series “Murmures” (Murmurs. In French
also means wall), have therefore aspired to carry a durable message and reaction. They are meant to be universal, to go beyond, to transcend the Lebanese context. They aspire to represent childhood confronting injustice, the fierce determination to resist and say no. “Every picture has its own life, it’s own role even when out of context. The concept and the creative process carry a violent ability to communicate emotion and awareness. The photographs, like any committed artwork, look for timelessness, and even atemporality, another dimension, one that is wider and more inclusive.”
“Photography is violent because it fills the sight by force” states Roland Barthes in “Le chambre claire” (the camera lucida). It depicts a certain reality in order to transcribe a message. Even if characterized by a seal similar to that of an objective documentary work, Rima’s photography is yet not a scientific and clinical photography. The choice of frame and time is not neutral and has remained subjective. In fact, the young woman needed a strong and direct affect that connected her to the subject. “I look for the coincidence of a current that would be exchanged between the photographer and his subject; there exists a different energy and attitude that take place. It is this flow that created the moment, the clock, the magic, the encounter that concealed the true and right image.”
“Murmures” and the dialogue between cultures
This is why, thanks to “Murmures”, Rima Maroun has won the first Euro-Mediterranean Prize for Dialogue Between Cultures in 2008 following the competition launched on the Internet by the Anna Lindh Foundation. It concerned artistic work defending work among different civilisations through art and culture and bringing together the 44 countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin under one banner.
Thanks to this price that was delivered to her in Naples and that enabled her to travel and present her photographs, Rima has become aware of the Euro-Mediterranean space. An awareness that was also accompanied by a better understanding of the true meaning of “Murmures” which won new coherence and density in the eyes of its creator. This was nurtured by the reactions inspired by the fourteen photographs everywhere around the Mediterranean basin. In this area within which dialogue between different cultures, the sharing of different heritages, the exchange of different civilisations are encouraged by the weaving of bridges, platforms and meeting interfaces.
Beyond segmental affiliations, the stupid fears of difference, the non acceptance of the Other and his distinctive identities, the denial of the real and profound common human values, the intolerances that are source of conflict. Beyond the confrontation of histories and memories.
A murmur marked by a worthy modesty that is stronger, higher and goes beyond a scream.
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech