When I arrived in Paris and started my MSc in Art and Cultural Management in PSB and IESA, we were given the opportunity to organize our own event as part of our degree curriculum.
I knew almost instantly that I wanted to organize an exhibition in Paris although I did not yet understand how big of a challenge it would be. Already having obtained a BA in Fine Art and Art History, my main concern was the business requirements of organizing this exhibition. Thankfully the courses at PSB and IESA gave me plenty to go on. Throughout the year I had the chance to meet inspirational classmates, faculty and professionals.
Slowly I began to understand how complex it would be to find the right artists, the right space and most importantly the right sponsors. Even choosing the topic for the exhibition was challenging, it involved a lot of research and a lot of soul searching. I thought about how I could use the new tools I had just learned such as marketing and economics to come up with a topic. I started listening to everyone around me. I thought of it as a sort of informal survey that eventually pointed me towards a topic that resurfaced in the media as well as in casual conversations because of the current conflicts and also struck at my core. Heritage.
I am Lebanese, or at least my parents are Lebanese, I was born in Montreal, Canada and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Growing up it was hard enough understanding the definition of origins, I couldn’t even begin to fathom heritage. It was not until I moved back to Lebanon to do my undergraduate studies that the concept really caught my interest. I learned that Lebanon has become accustomed to disassociating itself from its cultural history. This small MENA region country has been a battlefield for the past 60 years, having struggled with civil wars, integrating diasporas from its neighboring countries, and the general political and sectarian conflicts that plague the Middle East. That is why I figured that it could be used as a microcosm when looking at the future of a culture’s heritage. I believe the matter of destroyed, lost and forgotten cultural objects is an immediate issue. Not to mention neighboring countries such as Syria and Iraq have recently been subjected to the destruction of universal heritage sites, the threat extended its reach all the way to Paris, a disheartening reminder that this is a worldwide threat.
My mission became clear: I wanted to highlight how important and relevant cultural heritage can be to a person and a country’s identity and future. Heritage of Emotions is a term inspired bySigmund Freud’s research. It is formed by a series of reactions to events of our family’s “origin” (ancestors, community and culture). It impacts a person’s awareness of their emotions and their ability to connect to their surroundings. The concept was only the beginning; I still had to actually make it come to life. After countless refusals and disappointments I finally found a gallery willing to hear about my project. The Gallery owner Nikki Diana Marquardt agreed to produce my exhibition in exchange I would curate a show for her NGO Work in Progress at the Beirut Art fair 2015. I think that was the first moment I truly believed that I could do this. I still needed to find the right sponsors to support the costs of the exhibition. I was lucky enough to meet a very special person who not only supported the exhibition financially but also supported me through the creative process and for that I am eternally grateful. In fact, the amount of kindness that I have felt throughout this project go beyond origins and heritage; I dedicate this exhibition to every person that listened, read, edited, advised and contributed to making it possible.
If I have learned anything from this project it is that culture is meant to be shared - and while it is important to remember historical cultural heritage - in the world we live in today it is even more important to leave a positive mark for future generations. Stand together, embrace different cultures and learn to accept each other.