Manifesting the desire to bring back a country that has lost its freedom, livelihood, and diversity, Ammar Abd Rabbo’s series “Syrie, Mon Pays Qui N’existe Plus,” is specific to memorabilia, nostalgia, and the conveyance of personal memories.
Presently exhibited at the Beittedine Palace, as part of the 35th annual Beittedine Art Festival, Ammar’s body of work delivers the real complexity of an altered narrative which paints a portrait of Syria, a country that has gradually lost its cultural identity.
Comprised of archival images captured between 1990 and 2015, the series attempts to take the viewers on a journey into a time that has become hugely distorted. With pictures of portraits, monuments, landscapes, and keepsakes, these photographs depict crucial moments of a collective history.
Abd Rabbo’s work covers an array of faiths that perpetuate ancestral traditions. From the Umayyad mosque to the Monasteries of Maaloula, a mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II, the Abbasids of Damascus, the Christians of northern Syria, and most strikingly the portrait of Syrian Jew Simon Hassoua and his grandson posing in front of the al-Rouqui synagogue. These photographs evoke a symbolic past where individuals from diverse religions that once co-existed.
Ammar managed to incorporate images that prove the country’s sense of humor. From a comedic tv show filming in one of the destroyed buildings to funny handwritten signs, Abd Rabbo was able to introduce a funny aspect to this exhibition.
When audiences look at the different images of Syria, one realizes that tradition and culture are very significant characteristics in this body of work. While some photos of the bustling streets and busy markets show the livelihood of the region, other photographs such as dance performances and theatre reenactments Zanoubia in the amphitheater, this displays the importance of holding on to a country that is slowly dissipating.
According to Ammar, a quarter of the Syrian nationals have relocated to many countries around the world, leaving behind their loved ones and the land they call home. With the majority of Syrians still standing in the face of adversity, these individuals have found ways to adjust and cope with the situation.
“Syrie, mon pays qui n’existe plus” communicates a crucial message of resilience and hope for a country that once was his safe haven.
This body of work is currently being exhibited at the Beittedine Festival. The exhibition will run until August 10.