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B&W photo exhibition explores nostalgia of Middle Eastern Christians

By Camille Dupire - Apr 10,2018 - Last updated at Apr 10,2018

Photographs of Christians living in the Middle East explore the lives of these communities in ‘Nostalghia’ exhibition in Amman (Photo by Linda Dorigo)

AMMAN — Thirty-two black and white photographs depicting the lives of Christians across the Middle East are covering the walls of the Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Jabal Luweibdeh, as part of the “Nostalghia — Journey among the Christians of the Middle East” exhibition.

Inaugurated on Tuesday by Italian Ambassador Giovanni Brauzzi and the Apostolic Nuntius Alberto Ortega, the show is organised by the Italian embassy in Amman,  within the framework of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s (MAECI) cultural programme “Italy, Culture, Mediterranean” running through 2018.

“The annual integrated programme, which combines tradition, innovation and creativity, seeks to highlight cultural and social identities as instruments through which to consolidate and strengthen the dialogue between Italy and countries bordering the two shores of the Mediterranean,” according to MAECI.   

Based on listening, dialogue and co–creation, the programme promotes a cooperative approach by encouraging the exchange of ideas between Italian institutions and local players, the representative continued.

“As Italians living in a country where Christians are the majority, we wanted to better understand the lives of Christians living in other parts of the world, especially the Middle East,” photographer Linda Dorigo said when asked about the idea behind hers and journalist Andrea Milluzzi’s project.

“I remember sitting together in Rome on New Year’s 2011, right after hearing about the terrorist attack that took place in Alexandria, Egypt. That really triggered something in us, as we started wondering what life is like for these communities once the media attention vanishes a few days after such attacks,” Dorigo told The Jordan Times ahead of the exhibition.

The pair decided to embark on a journey across the Middle East, cradle of Christianity, where they went on a search of one of the world’s most ancient communities.

Starting from Iran, they spent two years and a half crossing the borders of Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and Jordan, aiming to find a key for reading the present of these communities by questioning their past.

“These artists went on a journey back in the centuries that separates us from our oldest history, marked by meetings, silences, confessions and confidences, which leads us to look into the eyes of the witnesses,” an embassy statement said. 

“We are often told that Middle Eastern Christians are persecuted and victims and we wanted to have a first-hand look at the way they live, see part of the reality by ourselves,” Dorigo said, noting that the team sometimes faced difficulties in accessing certain communities.

“However, what struck us most was the co-existence of these groups with other communities in their country. There was truly a peaceful soul to the shared lives of those people,” she recalled, adding that they received “a lot from help from locals, whatever their religion was”, and were greeted with warmth and generosity.

“Held in the Our Lady of the Annunciation Church, a symbolic place of dialogue between faiths and confessions, this exhibition points out the attention on a page of extraordinary relevance for the Middle Eastern area,” the embassy statement said.

“Nostalghia” is the last chapter of the duo’s book “Rifugio” (or “refuge”), which was published after five years of work. “The set of photographs we chose explores the idea of a psychological state of sadness and regret for the distance from people and loved places, which is what these communities live as they were forced to flee from their land,” said Dorigo, adding: “It also expresses the fear and feeling of danger lying over their identity as they are constantly faced with the unknown of the future.” 

The exhibition, which will run through April 17, is part of the Image Festival Amman’s 8th edition, directed by Linda Khoury with the contribution of the European Union National Institutes for Culture.

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