Farida Hamak

From the series Traces of War, Lebanon, 2003

Negative color 24/36 Fine art print
66.5 /100 cm

Courtesy of the artist

For a moment, it seems as if we are looking at a Mediterranean Vermeer, and indeed Farida Hamak’s photographs are “painted” with delicate and harmonious colorfulness that emphasizes the effects of light and shade. Through her well-balanced compositions, she conveys to the viewer the atmosphere in the innermost rooms of the deserted palace of Dahesh and the submissive outlook of its residents, whom she meticulously documents with her camera. The Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975 and lasted 15 years. The two warring camps were comprised of various factions and different communities – on the one side, the radical (left-wing) camp, and on the other, the conservative/Maronite camp. It ended with the occupation of East Beirut by Syrian forces, which fought against the radical camp. According to official data released by the Lebanese government, 150,000 people were killed in that war, as well as additional 17,500, who were initially declared missing. Close to 800,000 people were compelled to leave their homes, and about one million Lebanese became refugees in foreign countries. Syria’s 15-year de facto control over Lebanon ended with the withdrawal of Syrian troops in 2005. However, to this day there are Shiite refugees living in the Dahesh palace, where they sought shelter during the hostilities. Farida Hamak did a photo essay on this forgotten community in Beirut who are not able to find an alternative to this once majestic but long since dilapidated palace. New generations grow up there, and the elders take their last breath there. The authorities would prefer to have their illegal guests, who have nowhere else to go, off their hands.