Lebanon has a love-hate relationship with buses, and as anyone with a shred of knowledge about Lebanese history realizes, the “bus massacre” (Ain ar-Rummaneh “incident”) that occurred on April 13, 1975 was the casus belli for the calamitous violence that raged for nearly two decades and became the Lebanese “civil” war—though there was nothing civil about it. The iconic image of that dilapidated Fargo bus is never far from the minds of Lebanese citizens, nor should it be. As UMAM D&R strives to collect and protect the country’s war-loaded memories, that vehicle figures prominently in the postwar development of Lebanese society. So if the task is to produce a road show that travels new roads and encourages both interpersonal and cultural exchange, what better conveyance could there be than a bus?
UMAM uses a number of tools to gather truthful documentation about Lebanon’s collective past, and we employ a variety of methods—including books, pamphlets, films, conferences, public gatherings and artistic events—to disseminate that information to the public. Understandably, it is at least as important to make such information available to Lebanon (and beyond) as it is to collect, identify, catalog, preserve and safeguard it. In a constant search for increasingly wider swaths of the Lebanese public with which this information can be exchanged, UMAM and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Lebanon have partnered to create a bus-based road show we call The Bus Takes the Podium. Thanks to UNDP, the centerpiece of this long-term initiative, a bus specially configured to facilitate and communicate our operations, will enable us to present samples of our collection to citizens from a number of areas within the country, introduce our new memoryatwork.org website and facilitate the collection and exchange of memories.
Aided by UNDP, UMAM has devised a schedule of destinations and activities intended to engage audiences of all ages but particularly youths, who post the greatest risk to Lebanon’s future if we permit them to forget the bloody lessons of our past—the ones so many of us choose to forget. Briefly, the bus will travel two primary avenues:
- An “away route,” which will consist of a series of “memory stops” to be made throughout the country where UMAM-UNDP representatives will engage in cultural activities conducted in partnership with schools, NGOs, municipalities and other salient social bodies; and
- A “home route,” which will transport youths to UMAM’s headquarters in Haret Hreik and introduce them to many of the same topics being addressed on the road.
On both “avenues,” however, the activities conducted will always include a component intended to sensitize visitors—citizens of all ages—to the important work being done by the organization to collect, preserve and disseminate valuable Lebanese memories.
This exciting project began with the procurement of a bus suitable for the purpose and identification of the project’s goals and objectives. Today, the bus is almost ready to begin serving as UMAM’s mobile office that will act both as the hub for our destination-specific activities and as the principal vehicle we will use to introduce increasingly larger audiences to our organization and its endeavors.
See you soon!