al-Dikrayyat al-Muallaqa – Hanging Memories
Damascus, Syria 2009.
The characteristic obituaries in Syria are the subject of “al-dhikrayaatal-mu’allaqa - Hanging Memories.” The past, even though remote and concluded, maintains a present and actual value, that transcends language and culture. In Syria the culture of ancestry is expressed in the anniversary of the death of beloved ones throughout the cities; in the form of massive displays of portraiture obituaries. This tradition maintains alive the personal and collective memories shared within this society. These Memories, even though reconstructed, are the cultural foundation of societies; they are what help people to identify themselves in their community. These mementos re-create the feelings of belonging, as they are created they also form the identity of kind. The stratification of countless obituaries along the years makes these mementos predominant in the panorama of neighborhoods. Exile, war ridden or abandoned communities oftentimes display these obituaries as the sole remaining spore of humanity in the existence of change. Thus I imagine a parallel city:
Walking through the streets of Damascus, between the immortal, crooked and cracked walls of the city that claim to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, one perceives the presence of its alter ego, the city of memories. In Damascus there is no Hell or Heaven after death. Everybody eventually populates the Silent City of Memories, as part of a ravenous past that survives in the present. In the Silent City its inhabitants, astonished witnesses, look back at you from their walls, immutable to life on ancient Damascus. Their faces and names survive for immemorial time. Then disappear, reappear, overlap, confuse and melt themselves into the crowded walls; keeping each other company, in a futile attempt to protect and influence: who knows who and who knows what. Until time, with the ruthless force of wind and water, or the help of a sacrilegious hand, or the artistic desires of a child, slowly delete these mute witnesses. Only to reappear a little more faded, screaming silently their desire for the present from the wall just around the corner.
The main focus of my photographic work lies in the relationship between human identity, memories and places. I consider that there is a strong link between the perception of oneself and the way people remember and store personal and collective memories. Merging identity, perpetuity and humanity as one with their surrounding environment. Abrupt changes in the urban texture influence, positively or negatively, the morphology and the use of a place. Change can delete memories attached to a place and create new ones, acting as catalyst to the social evolution of those relatives, friends and neighbors that survive. In the face of change, turmoil and unrest, these traditions of perpetuation in memoriam may not survive intact. Evolution through war and modernization beg to raise the question of how grief and remembrance can influence a culture towards peace and resolution. Could fear of expressing one’s grief lead to a loss of culture, to a lack of boundaries drawn through social solidarity?