Children of war - two generations, two nationalities - one voice

Lebanese and Syrian artists echo collective memories of war through art

20 February 2018
Children with UNICEF, Beyond and Yellow Studio
UNICEF LEB.

Lebanese and Syrian Artists Echo Collective Memories of War Through Art

Beirut, 20 February 2018 The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched today in presence of hundreds of visitors including ambassadors, UN agencies, high-level officials, media, artists and civil society, an exhibition of art and poetry, named “Haneen”, that underlines how children experience war. The exhibition will take place in Beirut’s iconic building, “Beit Beirut”, whose walls have seen three wars since its construction 93 years ago. The exhibition consists of paintings, illustrations, sculptures and sound installations by Lebanese and Syrian artists of whom many have lived through war, inspired by poetry by Syrian refugee children.

Two generations of children of war, two nationalities, speaking with one voice in one of Beirut’s iconic landmarks sharing one and the same experience of a childhood lived through the cruelty of war and echoing collective memories of war across time and geography. War impacts childhood the same way all over the world. When one’s home is shelled, when one’s playground becomes an army barricade, when a family member is lost; the feelings of loss and suffering are universal. In this exhibition, Lebanese artists and musicians join Syrian artists and children in reflecting on and interpreting the impact of war on childhood through visual and aural works of art.

 

“No other venue but Beit Beirut could host an exhibition like this"

 

“No other venue but Beit Beirut could host an exhibition like this. It is such a symbolic building for the Lebanese, and a perfect place to echo the message we want to convey; that in wartime, a child is a child, no matter the nationality,” said Tanya Chapuisat, Representative of UNICEF Lebanon and added that “all children experience war in the same way, be they Lebanese or Syrian. That is why we approached artists, many of whom know war first hand, to illustrate words of children that in this very moment are living with the consequences of war. More importantly, we did this because in times like these when tensions are running high, it is a moral obligation to unite and focus on what we have in common instead of what divides us.”

The exhibition and the book have been in the making for nearly a year. Once the exhibition in Beirut comes to an end, it will tour the world to different UNICEF Offices.

“For Yelo Studio, responsible for curating and managing the exhibition – this project has been one of the most engaging and rewarding we’ve ever embarked upon. The message is a relevant and timely reminder of what really matters. Haneen was a continuous source of wonder at the resilience of a disenchanted youth, dreaming with eyes wide open, of a better tomorrow”, Chadi Aoun, Director of Yelo Studio said.

The inspiration to the artwork, the 39 poems, were all written in 2016, by Syrian children attending the press club activities run by the NGO Beyond. They address loss, past, and future, war and peace; all terms are too familiar to the artists that were tasked with illustrating and interpreting through their art. In a way, the poetry was an invite to the artists to reflect on how war impacted them as children and still does to this day.

For Joseph Awad, General Director of Beyond association, “The press club created in 2016 helped the Syrian refugee children with space for self-expression. For our young authors, this project has without any doubt positively impacted their psychological well-being, and created confidence and maturity, by giving them the space to freely express their thoughts, fears, about sensitive topics”.

In her poem “Childhood”, Syrian refugee Aisha (13), writes: “Yes, we are children, but we bear the burden of adults”. On the issue of identity, Moussa Nouh el Razzak (10) writes in his poem Untitled: “Am I not called Moussa? Why do they call me Refugee?”

Media contacts

Raquel Fernandez
Chief of Communication
United Nations Children’s Fund Lebanon
Maya Outayek
Communication Associate
United Nations Children’s Fund Lebanon

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