Sea of Stories
Where should the ships sail after the last shore? ‘Sea of Stories’ explores the displacements and imagined returns of the Palestinian community in Lebanon throughout the Mediterranean Sea.
For Palestinians in Lebanon, Palestine exists at the southern end of the shores we inhabit. It is no coincidence that the vast majority of Palestinian camps and gatherings lay on coastal cities, and some fall directly on the shore. The Mediterranean Sea is a site that bears testament to these journeys of displacement as well as possible routes of return.
For the community of half a million Palestinians in Lebanon, these routes all originated from Palestine, but they did not always lead back to it. Sometimes they led to Tunisia, Syria or Cyprus in an attempt to find shelter in an ever-diminishing horizon for the Palestinian national movement. One watershed moment was that of PLO ships leaving Beirut’s ports in 1982, an image that is etched onto the collective memory of Palestinians everywhere. In recent years, sea routes have been those of emigration as opposed to return, leading Palestinians further away from home. Along with other refugee and migrant communities from around the Mediterranean, entire families have taken to the sea in search of a different life on Europe’s southern shores. The Palestinian experience and imagination has travelled the Mediterranean, temporarily setting anchor in several of its ports, and perpetually seeking the route back to Palestine. In the words of Palestinian poet Tawfiq Zayyad, Palestinians have continued to “plough the sea” in a relentless effort to return. The exhibition seeks to explore those journeys and trace these routes, opening a space for conversation on what return means for today’s Palestinian community in Lebanon. It sets sail from the ports of Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon and Tyr to retrace the journeys of people, ideas, narratives and objects across the Mediterranean. It tries to draw attention to the labour invested in imagining geographies and scenarios of return, and provoke a conversation about what such a scenario would look like.