The Peace Center in Bkarzla
Parameters of the project: Through communal work, two separate and distinct groups of people created a large scale permanent sculpture installation for the Communal Peace center. serving as a vehicle to promote peace and understanding of two separate and distinct groups of people in an area where resources are scarce at best.
Through the process of shared work, the local youth from the villagers and the children in the refugee camps worked together to create a site specific kinetic sculpture.
It is a site specific work situated in the lobby of the Peace center in collaboration with children from both the local village and the neighboring refugee camps.
Militarized War Zone
The Peace Center in Bkarzla is located in a region where tensions are high and resources are scarce. It serves as an educational resource and provided much needed support and mediation for the region serving as liaison between Unicef UNHCR and refugees living in camps. The region is a militarized red zone where resources are scarce including power, food and clean drinking water.
After passing through the final check point in Tripoli, there is a palpable difference in the energy. It quickly becomes clear that I am entering a militarized red zone where only humanitarian workers, military and locals are permitted. It is apparent that the refugees and local are divided due to many factors; I wanted to create an environment that would challenge this.
Extrapolating on the imagery of the lebanese flag and the tree, the form was created using a variety of natural tree parts (olive, almond and fig) from the very agricultural fields where many of the refugee children work for often less than $2 a day. The multi species tree was conjoined and upended so that the roots were at the apex and the tree would 'grow' down 49' to greet visitors as they entered the building. The children from the refugee camps as well as local kids from Bkarzla assisted in casting plaster fruit in plastic espresso cups and the bottoms of plastic bottles. These forms were then painted by them and then added to the tree in a symbolic gesture.
The children from the refugee camps come from war torn areas and have experienced loss and trauma beyond comprehension. Through outreach on behalf of Relief and Reconciliation for Syria, I worked closely with the refugee families in the region. The generosity of the families was remarkable; when visiting the families in the camps, I was welcomed like family, sharing coffee, or sweet tea and the occasional meal. The women were amazing, strong and fiercely protective of their families. Their dignity and quiet heroism is remarkable- sharing stories of their escape from war, often traveling for weeks with children on their own and the consequent isolation of families pulled apart by war.
The children in the local villages are not unfamiliar to struggle either, They live in the poorest region of Lebanon and know what it is like to live in a conflict zone. By the end of the installation of the piece, they all were working side by side. Through this experience, I saw within these children the ability to raise above preconceived cultural divisions and become the leaders in peace building within their own communities
It is not only the final installation of the pieces that I consider paramount to the work; In my heart, I know that the true art work doesn't just lie in the finished sculpture that hangs in the lobby but in the new bonds that were formed; it lies in the social interaction and the consequent promotion of peace and hope- bridging boundaries of economics, educational access, language and culture. This has been such a rewarding experience, I have truly loved working here and find it difficult to leave. It has been such a privilege to create this piece here with such an inspiring group of artists. I am forever grateful.
Artistic production can be a catalyst responsible for social transformation, a collaborative process that fosters identity building, reclamation and pride.