A tribute to Houda Kassatly’s work highlighting Lebanon’s Cultural and Environmental Heritage at Alice Mogabgab Gallery

Alice Mogabgab Gallery - Beirut launched the year of Houda Kassatly under the theme “From the End of Civil War till the Hirak, the Abused Heritage; Architecture, Environment, Refugees”. The event kicked-off with a roundtable discussion about the abused heritage with the participation of Dr. Nadine Panayot Haroun (Material and immaterial heritage through natural and cultural components), M. Levon Nordiguian (Beirut and its Houses), Dr. Yasmine Makaroun Bou Assaf (Houda Kassatly’s work in Trablous context) and Dr. Jad Chaaban (Environment Destruction, Bankruptcy Construction).

Houda Kassatly presented also during the event, her latest book “De terre et de mains d’homme, la construction d’une maison à coupoles syrienne”, published at Al Ayn Edition, (2019, 240 pages, Arabic and French).

Paying tribute to Houda Kassatly and her committed work is an act of faith in the rebirth of Lebanon. Since her beginnings in photography (1978), the artist took on her to highlight Lebanon’s cultural and environmental heritage, both under constant bullying and degradation. Since 1995 Alice Mogabgab Gallery - Beirut accompanied the artist in her many fights against orchestrated amnesia, against overwhelming and devastating corruption, against massive destructions of the heritage; all scourges that dominated the daily lives of Lebanese in past three decades. It is a fact that the work of this artist constitutes an essential testimony, on both scientific and artistic level; a work that deeply question, challenge and disturb a public, surrendered to the euphoria of reconstruction.

Form the end of the Civil War until the Hirak, the abused heritage; architecture, environment, refugees. In 365 photos, spread into five exhibitions, throughout the year, Houda Kassatly revisits the architectural and handworker splendors of Beirut and Trablous; the ecological wealth of remote Lebanese regions to Dalieh site in Beirut, the tragedy of Palestinian and Syrian refugees in their dreadful daily life, in Lebanon camps.

The photos of Houda Kassatly are stripped of all artifice. The natural light cherishes and preserves the human dimension of the subject; whether it is a paysage, a still life or a portrait. The strict framing accentuates and renders the beauty of the subject with a splendid accuracy. In each and every work, time is suspended, so the moment preserves the memory of the land, its people and their traditions.

Exhibitions Dates:

• January 30 - March 21: Dalieh the Threatened Shore

• April 7 - May 23: Refugee’s Camps, the Unsustainable Precariousness

• June 9 - July 25: Tripoli of the Orient; Plural City

• September 15 - October 31: Sacred Trees, Sacrificed Trees

• November 10 - December 26: Beirut the Iconography of an Absence

About Houda Kassatly

Born in Beirut in 1960, graduated with a DEA in Philosophy from the University of Paris I Pantheon - Sorbonne in 1984. In 1987, she completed a doctoral thesis in Ethnology and Comparative Sociology at the University of Paris X - Nanterre. In 1986, back in her hometown, her professional life was devoted to research and photography; she was an international expert on the European MEDINA project, a researcher attached to the University of Balamand and the Interdisciplinary Memory Research Unit at Saint-Joseph University, as well as an associate researcher at the CERMOC (Centre d’Etudes sur le Moyen-Orient Contemporain).

For ten years, she was responsible for the Information-Communication, Capitalization and now the culture program of Arcenciel, an association working for sustainable development.

Her training in ethnology sharpens her eye on social traditions, architectural heritage, environment and day to day life. This training goes hand in hand with photography, which she has been practicing and perfecting since her teens, making her the first female artist-photographer in Lebanon. In 1987, the photo library (phototèque) of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris acquired a hundred of her photographs. In 1992 the Institut du Monde Arabe hosted her first personal exhibition. In 1993 her photos were exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris (Palais de Tokyo). Since then, Houda Kassatly's photographic works have been regularly exhibited in galleries and art centres in Beirut and Europe.

Alice Mogabgab about the Program of the Year 2020 at the Gallery

“At the approach of its centennial, Lebanon, which was severely wounded by the war but also by the post-war period, is a vast field of ruins. In 2020, the country is far away from the initial vision of its founding fathers; It is the opposite of the "glorious twenty" of peace, growth and prosperity experienced from 1952 to 1972, a brief golden age as described to young people by their grandparents and parents. This very sharp contrast, between today’s grieving reality and a celebrated past, is feeding the rejection by the young generations who are in protest and cross swords with the all-powerful coalition of former militias, in power since 1990.

The successive failures of the revolts from 2015 have amplified the prevailing bitterness and deepened the thirst for change, revealing the arrogant sense of impunity of the political elite in the exercise of governance; preferring blindness to the “enlightened” solutions, turning gradually public services into an organized racket, until the October 17, 2019 uprising.

It is against this backdrop that the Gallery perceives its commitment and shares it with friends and audience as an act of faith; the faith in the power of art and the power of artist to change our view of the world; the faith in the courage of women and men in the face of injustice; the faith in Zhu Xiao Mei's and her passion for Jean-Sebastien Bach music, confronting Mao's oppression; the faith in Etel Adnan Sitt Marie-Rose in the face of the war atrocities.

For all this, the Gallery will unite during the year 2020, that of the centenary of Greater Lebanon, with all Lebanese who fight daily for their present, their future and that of their children. A future that is only possible in the rebirth of Greater Lebanon, our homeland, for a new century of freedom, justice and dignity, and because the creative power of the artist will always triumph over the destructive forces of evil”.