• Rasha Kotaiche

December Presentation Script

For the past 3 years I’ve been focusing on cultural identity, representation and the preservation of truth.

From documenting land, recognising my ethnicity and heritage. To documenting places and people; understanding what nationality and cultural identity meant. And most recently photographing women, exploring religion and where faith places in how we understand our identity.

After developing my understanding of the everyday aspects that influence identity, I am now delving into exploring generation as another aspect of cultural identity. Starting from my Grandparents generation, I will build up to my own. At the start of the year I had already decided to return to Lebanon to develop my work; there was more to learn and understand than I had availability to; I just wasn’t aware as to what it was I wanted to seek.

A question everyone asks me is why Lebanon? The basic answer is that's where my roots start (as far as I’m aware). But why does that interest me? - I always wonder what my life would have been like had I been born and raised in Lebanon, or at least had more of a privilege to visit as often as possible to grow alongside my extended family. Both my parents had a similar yet different route that led them to the UK; both stemming from their parents. The journeys of my grandparents, led to the journeys of my parents which leads us to me today, developing this work. Had they not had these journeys, as well as millions of others, there wouldn’t be such an expansive Lebanese diaspora. Leading to my generation of 2nd gen migrants, creating a third cultural identity.

I’ve had this need to find more family archives, especially those of my grandparents, aunts and uncles. So when my uncles and mother presented me with what they had left I was determined to use them for something at some point in my life. Bringing them out again this year brought around the realisation of the use of the archive in exploring generation. As I was only a child when I last spent time with 3 of my grandparents, and saw the 4th deteriorate until her death across the past 4 years; I’ve only had stories from my mother and these images to understand who they were, the life they lived, and the life they lived in Lebanon. What their Lebanon was like. Their timelines jumped a lot, for example my maternal side jumped between Libya and Lebanon due to my grandfather's work. Where as my paternal family migrated to Kuwait due to political disagreement, where my grandmother would visit Lebanon but my grandfather refused; and yet here he is now buried in his homeland.

My parents timelines then led them to the UK, my dad for study and work, my mum when she married my dad. Being a mix of the 2 cultures creates a third culture where the 2 are balanced in one person.

What I have been focusing on in particular right now is the archive, its importance and the different forms of the archive; photographic, places, objects and traditions.

Across the past 22 years there has been a development in collecting and preserving the Lebanese archive; starting with the Arab Image Foundation in which there are archival images being collected from all over the Middle East. One specific strand, which didn’t start off as part of the AIF but later supported by, is the Lebanese Archive by Ania Dabrowska and Diab Alkarssifi. Where they have a collection of over 27,000 archival images from all across Lebanon and parts of the ME. Ania, although she is Polish, explores the importance of the archive on our sense of identity, she says “turning to the past whilst trying to make sense of something in the present”.

Gregory Buchakjian is another Lebanese interdisciplinary artist where he has looked at the photographic archive, physical objects and space; focusing on the transformation of urban spaces in Beirut; abandoned buildings that were affected by the wars, fled from and forgotten about.

The influence of the archive, and the archive as a physical standing space has influenced me in my next step which is creating what will be the future archive; but with the intention. By analysing what it is we focus on in specific when it comes to looking at the archives, and making them the standing point of the image; making portraits, presenting personality and documenting space that will one day change. This will be done both in the UK to document this third culture generation, and in Lebanon to create an update on my family archive as my family continues to grow.

As a secondary migrant, do we lost our sense of identity as the new generations appear?

When you grow in a fast pace society, but your elders are still in the mind of their slow-pace homeland, when do you have time to stop and find the middle ground?

What are the maths?

First gen migrants either continue with their own frame of mind, and avoid following the society they have newly joined. Or they completely ditch their roots and fully immerse themselves into the society.

Second gen are raised with their heritage within the home but within a different society outside. Feeling like they must decide between one or the other to be accepted.

Third gen relies on the choice of second; are they one, the other or are they the 3rd identity of both combined?