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Letters from Beirut: a project to bring the voice of the Lebanese to the world

For several years now, Lebanon has been confronted with health tragedies, political crises and economic and financial instability. If solidarity initiatives are multiplying in order to bring help and support to the country, artists have also wanted to take part and give meaning to the deteriorating situation. Here is a look at one of the most resounding works, "Letters from Beirut"... 

A common story 

Tara and Tessa Sakhi, 22 years old, Lebanese-Polish sisters and artists, did not hesitate to take part in the artistic impetus to make the whole world aware of the tragic situation in Lebanon today

They look like twins but are two years apart. Growing up in a Lebanese-Polish family, they both became interested in Lebanese architecture during their studies. After graduation, the two sisters did not hesitate to embark on interior design projects together, and then moved on to large-scale commercial work, allowing them to try more ambitious and creative ideas

And their most creative idea was this: 

Putting the voice of the Lebanese on paper

In the weeks following the Beirut harbour explosion, the two sisters launched a call on their website to collect as many messages as possible from the Lebanese population but also from its expatriates, asking them to tell in a few words their feelings after the tragedy. The artists succeeded and received thousands of responses, all marked by anger, sadness and anxiety about their future: “Yes to resistance“, “Why is humanity so destructive?”, “Help” …

And these messages were heard. After reading each one carefully, Tara and Tessa couldn’t keep it to themselves. So the two sisters transcribed the answers onto rough recycled paper and placed the notes in small pieces of felt, woven by a collective of Sharjah artisans

They then hung the 2,000 or so notes on a wire mesh to place in the Giardini della Marinaressa, at the heart of the Venice Biennale, creating the effect of a tiled wall in the waterside garden.

An artistic work marked by pain 

According to the artists, “people can identify with each other, whatever the situation, because feelings are feelings“, “this is a way for us to resist forgetting“. 

While most of the messages remained anonymous, Tara and Tessa were careful to leave the email addresses of some of the authors. Many visitors, moved and touched by the work, did not hesitate to establish a correspondence with the Lebanese population after the Biennale. 

Writing is therapeutic” says Tessa. “And receiving letters from strangers was a form of compassion and empathy, like a therapy for both“.

Meet the creators in a few days to find out more about this project.