Exhibition by UMAM D&R
Lebanon 1920 - 2020
How Might We Commemorate This Centennial?
لبنان 1920 ـ 2020

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September 12 - November 4, 2018 @ The Hangar | Beirut

As one of the victors of World War I, France received a mandate to administer the territories of the defunct Ottoman Empire from which Lebanon was culled and on September 1, 1920, a representative of the French military turned over the keys to the kingdom to the Lebanese themselves, allowing for the establishment of the State of Greater Lebanon—the forerunner to the Lebanese Republic, which emerged in 1926. Among the many other French decisions related to the political organization of the territories entrusted to France, this one prompted a series of side effects, including the broad chasm that separated those who believed that this French action fulfilled their aspirations for autonomy, and others who were convinced that it crushed their desire for unity with their neighbors. Regardless of the motivation behind such decisions, the nearly 100 years of Lebanon’s existence have shown that this debate would give way to other debates and arguments, some of which would have dire consequences that arguably had greater an impact on Lebanon than any course of action ever taken by the French.

With Lebanon's centennial steadily approaching, the central debate over its creation also continues to shift according to the impulses of the parties involved. In its most elemental form, that debate is manifested by contradictory calls for commemoration of, or total disregard for that anniversary. According to the pro-commemoration faction, Lebanon's institution represents one of its greatest historical achievements, while those opposed consider September 1, 1920, particularly shameful and fear that themed celebrations could undermine the country's fragile stability. Interestingly, this debate reached the Lebanese parliament in 2017, where a similar deliberation unfolded between pro- and anti-commemoration advocates.

A centennial is a significant occurrence in any field or domain, but perhaps even more so in Lebanon given the periods of severe turbulence and tribulation that have shaken the state to its core. As a documenter of these events, UMAM D&R felt compelled to invest the necessary resources to catalogue this pivotal, ongoing debate over whether to celebrate such a significant milestone. The output from this documentation initiative will appear generally senseless if viewed separately from the progression of this Lebanese human experience—however frivolous and wayward it may seem. Based on this perception of Lebanon's first 100 years, UMAM D&R conceived the idea of an essay exhibition titled "Lebanon 1920 - 2020: How Might We Commemorate This Centennial?" Although Lebanon’s one hundred years of existence are viewed within a fixed framework, the question has to be asked: is this period not simply one part of a timeless tale? An open-ended experiment whose trajectory is as hard to chart as its past is to explain?

This exhibition is part of the Connecting the Dots initiative and was made possible thanks to funding from the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon.

Photo Gallery
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