TOKYO-2017 Editorial / Photo Essay

Nabaa: 100 years of exiles

  • Prize
    Bronze in Editorial/Photo Essay
  • Photographer
    Lorenzo Tugnoi

For a century Nabaa has been the landing point for migrants arriving from various corners of the Middle East. The first to arrive in this vibrant quarter of Beirut were Armenian families fleeing persecutions in the 1920s. The latest arrivals are Kurdish, Alawites and Sunni Muslims escaping the ongoing war in Syria. Their stories of dislocation, and their extraordinary lives, chronicle the cultural complexity and the tumultuous history of the region. In this small enclave, where proximity with the other is unavoidable, asserting your group’s identity becomes paramount. The streets of Nabaa, still evocative of its Armenian roots, echo events of the past and the present. Some walls are scribbled with names of militias. Others are plastered with images of dictators and martyrs. These symbols encode a geography of invisible boundaries of political belonging: yellow and green flags mark the houses of Shia supporters of Hezbollah and Amal. Crosses and images of saints represent those affiliated to the Maronite Christian Phalangists or the Armenian Orthodox church. In these expressions the lost homeland is remembered, a glorious past of struggle and war is commemorated, or the courage is sought to face the next.