blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


CAMILLE ZAKHARIA | Elusive Homelands

Elusive Homelands—The Prelude

The series Elusive Homelands consists of two parts. The first part, Elusive Homelands—The Prelude, is comprised of ten gouache and pastel paintings representing the mythical past, or the common separation from one’s family and culture, that most emigrants experience. They constitute the cultural and historical back-drop against which the stories of the real-life immigrants in Halifax and their familes discussed in Elusive Homelands—The Immigrants are set.

Elusive Homelands—The Prelude exhibit
 Elusive Homelands—The Prelude
 VCUQ Gallery, Doha, Qatar
 October 4–November 8, 2007
Photo by Larry Koltys

While some of these works are fictitious—that is, they do not represent an actual event—the majority are in fact autobiographical and based on my own experiences and those of my immediate family in Lebanon. They describe the realm of distant memories and dreams rather than reality and have therefore been executed in a medium vastly contrasting that of photographic collage, allowing a different scope of expression and iconographic vocabulary. None of us immigrants ever thought that we would lose all of those aspects of our lives one day that we took for granted back home: the slow pace of life, the close family ties, the care of our neighbors, our defined cultural identity—its habits, stories, and music. We all experienced a last meal with members of our families before departing and then the day of departure. Almost all of us knew someone, or someone who knew someone, who had died as a result of the Lebanese civil war, or who was desparate to marry someone with an American Green Card or other foreign residency just in order to be able to leave the country safely. Such hopes often resulted in disappointment.

The subdued, earthy colors used in these works, as well as the choice of stylistic elements more associated with the past— the types of clothing seen, or the expressionistic features of faces and gestures—contribute to an overall aura of the homeland as a dream land, partly romantic and partly grim, upheld by memories unfounded in the reality of the present.

—Camille and Sulaf Zakharia