In The Name of God - Shall We Swallow Our Voices?
“They are broken now…but it is only a part of the story”, stated attorney and artist Mirna Maalouf in an interview with Truth Be Told (TBT).
On the morning of October 20th, 2022 - the municipality of Achrafieh was informed by “Jnoud L Rab”- also known as the “Soldiers of God” - a religious group whose mission is to spread the word of the bible, and condemn anything that could in any way oppose the teachings of the “Orthodox and Catholic” churches – about “naked women” portrayed at Mirna Maalouf’s breast cancer awareness exhibition at Sassine Square.
The exhibition was held under the name “Blessées”, meaning Injured, and included 19 colored Mannequins - each representing different colors, symbols, languages, and messages - in attribution to the 19th of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. The municipality in turn, sequestrated the mannequins the same morning, and caused minor damage to the art. Mind you that Maalouf had already been granted permission by the Governor of Beirut, prior to the launch of the exhibition. Maalouf put back the art pieces at 2 p.m. of the same day. Jnoud L Rab kept threatening Maalouf to remove three specific mannequins, which were painted in colors similar to that of the LGBTQ+ flag, which led Maalouf to hire security in precaution.
In her art, Maalouf represented not only the physical wounds resulting of cancer, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual cracks beneath the strong shields of cancer survivors. Maalouf explained to Truth Be Told (TBT), that as a woman who has had experience with loved ones suffering from cancer, she wanted to represent the relatable pain of these experiences, so she made this art in hope of sending a message of love and beauty, and in hopes of fundraising for breast cancer awareness by selling the Mannequins Art – each for $650.
It is sad and disappointing to see that the world of art - which is supposed to be the freest of all worlds - not only being unacknowledged, but also discriminately condemned in a country like Lebanon; a country that has in the hearts of its citizens seeds of the art of Assyrians, the brains of Phoenicians, the civilization of the Romans “supposedly”, the manners of the English, the classiness of the French, and of course the patriotism of this unique arrangement of cultures called: Lebanese.
Maalouf’s efforts of sending a message, through one of the most peaceful methods of all - the beauty of art - were not only unappreciated, but also disrespected, stigmatized, sexualized, and ruined.
Jnoud L Rab, on the other hand, told TBT that they only carry out what the church covets, and that they are willing to remove anything that could have any slight relation to the representation of the LGBTQ+ community, claiming: “We are only trying to save our children from homosexuality”.
My question then to Jnoud L Rab, or any other group that tries to silence people under the name of religion: How fragile are your beliefs, for them to be intimidated by limbless, nipple-less, and essentially mute figures? Moreover, by removing these figures you are promptly acknowledging their power. Therefore, my question remains: ‘How high is the power of this art, for it to directly threaten the fate of your children - the fate you must believe is ‘in the hands of God, and only the hands of God’? Were you true believers in the faith of Christianity?