Ever wondered what made Lebanon, Lebanon? If you really dig deep and take the time to see what makes our county stand so tall, despite its size and all that it has been through, you begin growing a strong sense of appreciation that you ignored being possible. Lebanon has been destroyed and rebuilt a countless number of times, which brings me today to mention someone who solely aims to look deep into the homes that weren’t exactly rebuilt.
Graphic design graduate Jana Mezher found a passion for exploring ruins and abandoned locations in hopes of understanding the people who lived in these houses. By understanding, she means to figure out their occupation, wealth, age groups, and so on.
Her passion and endeavor, which fall under the category of Urban Exploration, are in fact very fascinating when you consider all that is involved and all that could result from her analysis.
It is like telling those who are no longer that they haven't been forgotten. She carefully explores their abandoned houses, looks at the objects they left behind and then comes up with questions to test her analytical thinking about the place.
According to Jana Mezher, her passion has allowed her to understand the collective memory that she isn’t familiar with and that past she was lucky enough not to have lived. She explores ruins caused by wars; battles that tarnished homes, and ripped families apart or erased them from existence.
As per Jana, the feelings that arise during her exploration of each of these places allow her to connect with their past people at an emotional level as pertinent heartfelt questions arise in her mind: Where are they now? What happened to them? Are they still alive?
So many aspects of this exploration certainly leave one's mind juggling questions about where these Lebanese locals are now. While most Urban Explorers have been focusing on bringing these abandoned houses into memorial photos, Mezher's approach focuses on exploring the place.
"The picture for me is just a memory of the place," she said, speaking to Albawaba, a Middle East media. "I feel that, when I start researching about who used to live there, the history and what I felt in the moment, I focus more on the importance of preserving these places than on the picture."
Mezher integrates technological tools through her explorations, including augmented reality, as she seeks to develop projects for the Lebanese people to reclaim the history of these abandoned houses that are part of Lebanon's landscape.
Lebanon goes beyond the lights, the restaurants, the beaches, and the outings. There comes a time where one ought to know how all this modern time began. When we get to observe Jana's passionate endeavor, we can't but dwell on that part of Lebanon's identity and what has shaped it through its social and human history.
While we can proclaim many Lebanese elements as representing the shapers of today's Lebanon, from the landmarks to artifacts and its current people, we can't possibly disregard the stories of these houses and those who had to abandon their homes in search of safety and security.
These stories that fell in the oblivion of past times, along with those who lived them, left their marks in the homeland; marks veiled by the ruins of what used to be their family sanctuary.
Once long forgotten, now sought to be revived, the stories of these places are in the process of being revealed, one after another, as Jana Mezher is adamant to shed the light on what truly happened to them back then before Lebanon became what it is today.
Needless to say that it will be very interesting to hear from Jana about her findings as she opens up these doors to these past lives which remnants are still perched on Lebanon's hills and alleys, reminding us that once upon a time Lebanese people, just like you and us, lived here their life stories.