Growing up in Lebanon, since I was a child, I always thought that nothing is impossible in this country, as I always heard the fine loud slogans of ‘Democracy’, ‘Freedom of thought, of expression’, ‘the Switzerland of the Middle East’. However, when I grew up, to become this person who sees question marks attached to every claim made about this country, I realized how awfully wrong we all were and still are. The reality is now crystal clear that the only doors this country leaves open for us are those of hypocrisy, and of defined masks we are supposed to wear to cover all issues worth being discussed. Despite all that, attorney and artist Mirna Maalouf, managed to stand her ground for the second time, facing every judgement of those who would always rather be part of a herd, and who have the curtesy to try and suppress all those who have the courage to think and express for themselves.
The first time Maalouf stood her ground was on October 19th, 2022 at Sassine Square in Achrafieh, Lebanon. ‘Jnoud L Rab’, also known as the “Soldiers of God” – a religious group whose mission is to condemn anything that opposed the word of the bible, sequestrated and ruined the mannequins that were exhibited under the name “Blessées” or injured in attribution of October being the Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To justify their actions of destruction, According to ‘Jnoud L Rab’, the mannequins carry and represent so called “sensitive content”.
This time, eight of Maalouf’s mannequins, which were brutally damaged, were displayed against all odds at “Her Voice, Her Power” exhibition. These mannequins spoke up for every woman in the name of “freedom of speech and expression”. This exhibition, a curation of Nour Khoury, was held by the UNDP in partnership with the European Union, and the United States Agency for International Development, at Beit Beirut on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
When we asked Maalouf about the representation of the art that created this controversy, she stated that each mannequin represented a different woman, and a unique journey. MRIs, pain, healing, and even the sad and unfortunate outcome that sometimes is a result of the journey of breast cancer. “Follow your heart, passion, and inspiration, and you will never fail to succeed!” – Mirna Maalouf’s message to young artists. Adding, “I also believe Beirut is now booming with exhibitions, galleries, and theaters representing artists and their life.”
It is really inspiring to see women like Maalouf proudly hold on to the message of which their art carries. That is despite being in a country that disguises itself in the in the name of “democracy” – a cruel, very cruel, dictatorship of any voice worth being heard. Today, I still believe that it is all possible, not because Lebanon’s doors are wide open, but because it is in our resilient blood to be kicking doors of suppression off their jambs. Don’t believe us, just watch.