Trilogy

A series of three projects set in the Arab World, exploring themes of tragedy, origins, globalisation, missed opportunities, mythology, nationalism, and modernity. All three projects are on-going.


I : Iraq/Tigris

I : Iraq/Tigris is a project set along the Tigris river of Iraq. The project looks at contemporary Iraq, as well as looking for signs, icons and scenes that reference the region’s ancient past. The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Mesopotamian story that follows Gilgamesh in his triumphs, until the death of his close friend makes him sense his own mortality, which leads him to search for the secret of eternal life. Like Gilgamesh, civilisations have been drawn to the plains of Iraq in search of prosperity. The project is a visual response to the story and my experience contemplating Iraq through the river, and the collective memory and history of this region.

I remember hearing about the invasion of Iraq on the radio, as I was driven to school at the age of twelve. The coverage of “our boys” and their liberation of this foreign land fell on my bewildered ears. Twelve years later I visited Iraq and saw the Tigris river for the first time. This experience weaved a complex image of a country, one that was unrecognisable to the simplistic impression I got from the radio many years ago.

I like to tell myself that the river has a memory, and it's effects ripple across time and continents. The river watches over the ongoing civilisations that nestles on its banks, seeing the patterns of life emerge and fade away over time. Like the water, human rituals of power, cycles of life and civilisation, ebbs and flows across time seeping to the depths of the river bed or resurfacing. Signs, symbols and patterns re-emerge many life times later, though their former meanings may be forgotten.

Like the erosion and break up of rocks into pebbles in the river bed, memories fade and collect. My choice of subjects are an odd collection of events, non-events, scenes and subjects, found near or on the banks that this water has cut.


II : Syrians


In 2014, after watching the turbulent Arab Spring, I started a project looking at Syrians, and their fragmented lives and exodus from their land. The project is a mix of documentary photography and collected imagery from the phones of refugees themselves, creating a collaborative element to the project that reflects the growing importance of technology in personal recording of your surroundings during crisis, and also revealing the delicate and unseen moments that a refugee chooses to record for themselves. The project is driven by my journey through the crisis, extracts of interviews with those whom were gracious enough to let me into their lives, and my personal diary.


III : Arab Nationalism


The Six day war in 1967, which saw the Arab nations invade Israel, only to be resolutely and humiliatingly defeated, marked the end of the ambitions of Arab Nationalism. The dream was simple; to unify the Arab world in response to post-colonial divisions, interference and puppet leaders. To end it’s sense of humiliation and subjugation. Decades of building euphoria, dreaming of restoring the region to it’s former glory, crumbled and fell away to Israel’s decisive victory. The path to transnational political unity yielded to state nationalism, and the former dream became a relic of the past. Nations returned to their domestic agenda, and put their efforts to nurturing their own identities within their borders. 

Drawing on German Romanticism, the intellectual foundation of Arab Nationalism, I set out to find the ungraspable spirit that bound the Arab world together in this dream. German Romanticism was a reaction to British and French rationalism, and cared more for the direction that the heart pulled than the reasoning and deductive nature of Rationalism. My project feels for the immortal vibrations of shared cultural origin amongst a land divided by tribe, religion, ethnic group and borders. Visualising the tensions between the failed political ambitions of Arab Nationalism, and the continued cultural brother/sisterhood felt amongst all Arabs. Central to this is the idea that a part of everyone’s identity from across this land comes from a common point in time and space that is long forgotten. These images are taken across the Arab world, from North Africa, to the Levant and the Gulf, an area spread over thousands of miles. But they are presented as geographically anonymous, with no mention of which modern nation it is, to represent the single unified state that was dreamt of many decades ago. 


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