Over the course of my week in Beirut I had the good fortune of spending time with teacher and performance artist Raghda Mouawad. Through her I learned a great many things about the country and its people, including details about the education system and the harsh reality for artists during an economic crisis in a country that offers little support. We also get back into that now familiar topic, the contradictions of Beirut when it comes to identities, ethnicity and beyond.The following podcast was recorded in a car late at night in Beirut on the eve of my departure last month. Special thanks to both Raghda and our silent passenger in the back seat, Krystel Khoury, for taking the time to explain and show me their city. Friends like these in far away places make doing what I do, not only possible, but a pleasure.
Kamal Hakim grew up in an era of reconstruction after the civil war in Lebanon. As the son of a Greek Orthodox – Sunni Muslim marriage, he recalls eating sour-kraut cooked by his protestant grandmother. His life was marked by all the struggles of a city of contradictions, contradictions which he recognizes in himself as well. As an illustrator, Kamal has a dream, a dream he must reconcile with the financial demands of life during an economic crisis in a country that lives every day not knowing if there will be a tomorrow.
It was one of those beautiful nights in Beirut were I found myself sitting at a table with new friends sharing stories, teaching each other about the world, and finding humor in unexpected places. And even after a long day of teaching and rehearsing, Alexandre Paulikevitch is a natural at all these things. As we sat around the table of the outdoor cafe he talked about projects he’s working on and the challenges that keep coming his way, and after several minutes of conversation he looked at me and my portable recorder and said “OK Mark, I understand what you’re doing and what kind of conversations you are seeking.” A clear and reassuring statement I wish I would tell myself every now and then.
First of all don’t read too far into the title, I was in Beirut for less than a week and no one who has been in a city for such a short time should be telling you about that city. That said, I spent almost…