Not ones to shy away from our painful past, Lebanese people have always found a way to turn trauma into triumph, and ashes into life.
In the charming village of Remhala, in Mount Lebanon, Lebanese artist Charles Nassar has been doing exactly that. He is transforming war detritus into meaningful art sculptures, and sculptural scenes.
Rockets, artillery shells, and bullets that had once fallen on various Lebanese battlefields are shifted from tools of destruction to tools of creation. They are getting morphed to statues of a violinist, a farmer tilling his field, and a cockerel with a propeller for a head. That is to cite a few of these creative arts born from lethal tools.
During the Lebanese civil war, Nassar -like too many others- was forced to flee the country. Countless souls were lost in the violence that was ravaging the country back then. The grandmother of Nassar was one of its victims.
Haunted by the dark and wrangled remains of that era, Nassar sought closure and healing in his creative work.
That which was once a tragic reminder of a time long gone has been turned under his magical dexterity into means of celebration of traditions and memories.
Today, his grandmother and other characters of his past live on in the nooks and crannies of his garden in the village of Remhala of Mount Lebanon.
Speaking to AFP, Nassar explained, “The shrapnel takes on shapes in my mind… They guide me to what I should do with them.” Astounding indeed when you get to see the outcome.
This novel inventive artist has given shape so far to 250 unique creations and sold 150 which he is now working to replace with newer artistic inventions.
The message of Nassar is clear. He is trying to turn darkness into light, “something negative into something positive.”
In one corner of his artistic garden, one can admire a metal version of his grandmother collecting snails while his father milks a cow nearby.
One can also observe the intricate work depicting a woman baking crispy flatbread on the traditional tannour, slapped in an outdoor stove known as the Lebanese saj.
The 15-year civil war of Lebanon holds a prime spot in our collective memory. On the streets of Beirut, bullet-ridden walls and buildings could still be seen in various places.
Many of the destruction was preserved and kept in its initial form to serve as a stark reminder of the dark times we have endured. We have even created Beit Beirut out of an infamous building that was a catalyst during the war. From its ashes of conflicts and death sprang one-of-a-kind museum and art gallery.
“From the ashes we rise, time and time again..”
Because this is who we are, an unyielding nation of creative rebuilders, prevailing against all odds and conflicts through the thousands of years of our continuous existence.
Our national symbol is the Pheonix. Beirut is often compared to the mythical bird, for it has been destroyed and rebuilt over 8 times over the course of its vibrant history.
It is therefore only natural that our art would also reflect it.