My short interview on Aljadeed about ‘From Brooklyn to Beirut’


SaidaCemetery (1)
From Brooklyn to Beirut – Video Screening & Panel

Sunday, April 02, 2017

6:30-8:00pm at SECRET DUNGEON

From Brooklyn to Beirut run time: 25 minutesFilm screening of “From Brooklyn to Beirut” and

Film screening of “From Brooklyn to Beirut” and Panel Discussion moderated by Dr. Yasmine Khayyat between Rola Khayyat, Regina Basha, and Raymond Sasson.

The history of the Lebanese Jewish community dates back to Biblical times, with the first Jews settling in Lebanon around 1,000 BCE. After the creation of Israel, and the onset of the Israeli-Arab Wars, the Lebanese Jews began to emigrate, and settle abroad in countries such as France, Israel, Brazil and the U.S.

Very few Lebanese Jews remain in Lebanon, and those that have chosen to stay, live as discretely as possible. Lebanese Jews living in Diaspora have maintained their national identity. They have formed vibrant, dynamic communities where Lebanese traditions and values are maintained. Memories of Lebanon, are constantly recalled and shared. Families still speak Arabic, watch Arabic movies and listen to Arabic music.

In light of the political lines drawn between Israel and Lebanon, the lingering question remains: how do the Lebanese Jews define themselves within the context of the Middle East? This film explores the landscape of belonging of a diasporic community, along with the fragilities, and complexities of a politicized identity.

Regine Basha is an independent curator, who since 1993, has been curating innovative exhibitions for public institutions, civic spaces, magazines and private galleries nationally and internationally. Her shows include the Basim Magdy exhibition at Cecilia Brunson Projects, the artist’s first solo in London; a 2011 project at MASS MoCA called “An Exchange with Sol LeWitt,” organized with Cabinet magazine and the 2004 group exhibition “Treble” at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, Queens. She also hosted and produced a six-part radio show, Turning Baghdad, for Clocktower Radio, an institutional resident at Pioneer Works. Basha was born to Iraqi parents, she grew up in Montreal and Los Angeles and attended New York University, Concordia University (Studio Art and Art History) and graduated from Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies’ inaugural class of 1996. She currently sits on the board of Art Matters and Aurora Picture Show, and serves as the Executive director of the residency program at Pioneer Works.

Yasmine Khayyat holds a Ph.D. in Arabic Literature and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers. Dr. Khayyat’s field of expertise includes Arabic literature, Arabic poetry, cultural memory studies and literary theory. Khayyat’s interest in memory studies dovetails with her own life experience growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (1975-90) and a desire to revisit this experience academically.
Her fieldwork on war-related memorial sites in South Lebanon forms part of a current book project entitled Memory in Ruins: The Poetics of Aṭlāl in Lebanese Wartime and Postwar Cultural Production, which explores the intersection of classical Arabic poetic lamentations over ruins and their manifestations in contemporary Lebanese cultural productions. It traces the figuration of the ruin as a site of rupture and potentiality embodied in modern Arabic fiction, novels, poems, and sites of memory from the opening chapter of the Lebanese civil war to the present.

Raymond Sasson is the founder and owner of ‘Raymond Sasson Sterling Silver’, which specializes in 19th and 20th Century American estate antique silver decor, serving pieces, tableware and Judaica. Raymond Sasson Sterling Silver is located in the Gravesend section of New York. Raymond was born in Beirut to Lebanese/Syrian parents and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He is a contributing media officer for the Lebanese Jewish Council, a non-profit organization in charge of preserving the sacred sites and historical artifacts of the Lebanese Jews. Raymond holds an MIA masters in International Affairs and an MPA Masters in Public administration from Columbia University.


Selkeh W Emneh

سالكة وآمنة

February 26 – April 9

Opening Reception – Sunday, February 26th from 7:00 – 9:00 PM

SECRET DUNGEON 236 Moore Street Brooklyn, NY 11206

Curated by Patrice Aphrodite Helmar 

“In those days of social turmoil, random destruction, and trigger-happy militiamen, one never knew what to expect to see on the streets. The quick-witted Lebanese turned the radio into a lifesaver. Beirut radio’s terminologies normally used to inform motorists which streets to avoid due to congestion, Selkeh w Emneh (safe and clear) began to be used by one creative radio announcer to warn motorists which streets were free of kidnapping and sniper fire. The two words quickly became the catchword for the civil war, so much so that a Beiruti couple named their newborn twin girls Selkeh and Emneh.”

– Brownies and Kalashnikovs by Fadia Basrawi

 What is the fate of artifacts and architecture left behind by a people in flux? A lamentation; a funeral dirge for a city wounded but still living. The Book of Lamentations found in the Old Testament is a series of poems that grieve the destruction of Jerusalem. These verses cry for the return of a city’s divinity, and give voice to survivors who recount their dead loved ones. With each piece a small song for her home, for the loved and lost, Rola Khayyat’s work echoes this traditional lament.

Combining photograms that create and catalog a symbolic vernacular of conflict in Lebanon with a video that addresses the Lebanese Jewish Diaspora in New York, Khayyat engages the fragility, failures, and small victories of permanent politicized identity. Drawing on her childhood experience in the 1980’s during the height of the Lebanese Civil War, Khayyat proposes a version of normal from a position on the edge of stability.  It is a gesture that identifies and clarifies the cognitive dissonance and psychological distancing that persists while the world burns on our screens.  – Patrice Helmar


Light in Wartime 

Curator: Rola Khayyat

On view: June 7 – July 28, 2018

A 2017-18 Unsolicited Exhibition Program exhibition

Light in Wartime explores the relationship between light and photography in the context of war. The show presents photographers whose work addresses and employs the blackout darkness and precarious light conditions characteristic of a life under siege. Photographs are made from sniper holes, debris, moonlight, dioramas of memory-scapes, and imagined or remembered narratives. Light, whether it be a source of illumination, on the metaphoric or technical level, is the impetus behind the creation of the photographs, bringing forth new dimensions on the representation of war.