17 May 2008

Karm el-Meedan, Land Memory Series

This is the latest of my paintings in the Land Memory Series (see here for previous paintings in this series.) This latest one is called Karm el-Meedan, and is actually a composite of 16 unstretched canvases, each 12 inches square. It is not just paintings, but mixed media composed of paintings and found objects, including ceramic shards, bullet casings and rusted barbed wire fragments.

I found these objects on my last visit to Lebanon in 2004, in my family village of Bint Jbeil. I had not been to Bint Jbeil since 1978, when Israel first occupied it. I was in Karm el-Meedan, the field that my ancestors had farmed in the past, located next to my family's home in BintJbeil, walking around the field, kicking up dirt and rocks, when I suddenly saw the glistening color of a glazed object. I bent over to pick it up and found that it was a broken piece of old pottery. (The first question that came to mind was how old it was.) I kept walking around the field, looking closer into the ground, and found that there were more pieces of pottery in the soil, some deep in the soil, which i found after digging into the dirt, and some peeking slightly from the surface, more easily discoverable. I spent quite some time looking and in the end was able to discover almost 100 pieces, of various sizes. Some had a distinctly familiar beige/reddish brown pattern on them, such as on the drinking Ibreeq that most Lebanese have had in their homes at one time or another; but other pieces had more strange and curious patterns and colors, one particular lime green one remains my favorite.

I later discussed these pieces with my father, asking him why there were so many and which time period he thinks they came from. He remembered that when he was a child in the village, it was common practice to dispose of broken pots and jugs by breaking them into smaller pieces and throwing them back into the earth. Pottery was one of the few items of waste that human society created back then that did not degrade into the earth immediately, although its integration into the soil is not altogether harmful, because it retains water and later releases it back into the soil. (This is in strong contrast to the unfathomable amounts of toxic and non-bio-degradable waste that we create today, and heap into the earth or air or water, without the slightest apprehension or care.) So we surmised that the pieces of pottery must be approximately half a century old or more; this would would have been the last time my family had peacefully farmed their land in Bint Jbeil, before the advent of Israeli aggression which brought the ceaseless harassment of village life, eventually forcing the majority of people to migrate out of the village or out of the country. Along with the pieces of pottery, I also found the few bullet casings and pieces of barbed wire, remnants of war whose sounds still echo in our ears.

Since the discovery, I've known that I would use the found objects, especially the pottery, in some kind of art assembly, but had no idea how I would go about doing this. For a while they were in storage, until I was midway through the Karm el-Meedan painting. The idea came to me when I began to realize that the land formations in the painting seemed a bit empty, as if they were awaiting some kind of additional element, such as the evidence of human existence on the land; thus the fusion of imagined land fused with actual objects from the land came together to complete each other in the finalized work.

Here are close-ups of some of the 16 panels:

Below is Karm el-Meedan as it appears on display at Siraj Cafe.

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3 comments:

transient said...

this is one of your best works. It is getting great reviews at the restaurant. and of course, I really like it and appreciete it's background. I can't believe you don't have a ton of comments on this.

mary said...

I love these paintings! Beautiful work!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Ibn Bint Jbeil,

Needless to say this is amazing work of art. Wanted to know if any of your paintings are for sale.

Muness (also from Bent Jbeil)