Ara Oshagan

2014 - Ongoing

“dis/placed” is a narrative of diasporic identity and layered history.

My grandparents were exiled by the Armenian Genocide two generations ago and my parents, after being displaced several times across Europe and the Middle East, ended up in Beirut, Lebanon where I was born. Barely 11 years old, my family and I were displaced once again by the Lebanese Civil War and landed in the US. At the same time, my parents divorced, shattering our tight-knit nuclear family. I came of age in these tumultuous times.

With "dis/placed", I return to Beirut after a 40-year absence, carrying this baggage of fragmented history and wade into the spaces of my childhood: narrow and decaying neighborhoods fraught with their own multi-generational history of displacement, war and fierce independence. Layered, dark, brooding, ambiguous, "dis/placed" sits on the fine line between documentary and imagination and is as much about my need to unravel my own history as a chronicle of a physical and human landscape. What is home? How do you “return”? How does multi-generational displacement impact sense of belonging? Among the concrete and human geography of a place at once familiar and foreign, fractured and contiguous, I attempt to articulate a narrative of displaced identity.

All photographs are taken in and around the district of Bourj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter of Beirut.

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  • Slaughter for Christmas celebration

  • Brothers

  • Firemen in the Bourj Hammoud district

  • A former militiaman who defended the Bourj Hammoud district during the civil war

  • St. Sarkis church, established by Armenain Genocide survivors in the 1920's

  • Funeral at the Bourj Hammoud cemetary

  • Theatrical rehearsal

  • Armenian cultural center, site of heavy fighting during the civil war

  • New Years eve

  • Sako's meat shop

  • Sanjak, the oldest neighborhood in area, established in 1920's

  • Coffee shop in the Bourj Hammoud district

  • Levon's kebab shop in Bourj Hammoud

  • Two generations

  • American University of Beirut where I spent a lot of time as a child

  • Unhealed wounds of the Armenian Genocide still a critical political issue