SHARQY FOUNDATION for Cultural Development and Innovation
AN ART EXHIBITION BY TOM YOUNG
HAMMAM AL JADEED
Exhibition opens 18th September 6-9pm, 2020
Exhibition continues until 31st October, open Tuesdays to Sundays 11am to 7pm
Hammam Al Jadeed is a beautifully preserved 18th Century bathhouse situated in the heart of Saida’s old souq. It is the second largest Hammam in Lebanon. What was once a thriving centre of community exchange and cleansing for people of all three Abrahamic religions was abandoned in the late 1940’s; the demand for public hammams decreased due to water supply reaching people’s homes. The building has since been a carpentry workshop, during which time the splendid original features were all boarded up and plastered over. The Hammam sustained further damage from bombing during the Civil War.
It had remained an undiscovered gem until Saida born and bred, Said Bacho, Founder and Chairman of Sharqy Foundation for Cultural Development and Innovation, acquired it in 2018, having already acquired and renovated the adjoining furnace building in 2009. Bacho and his Foundation team of skilled craftsmen set about the delicate process of uncovering and preserving traces of its stunning original architectural features. The 300-year old Hammam Al-Jadeed opened again to visitors during Ramadan in May 2019 after nearly 70 years of closure, as a historic attraction site with local young men and women professionally trained to guide multi-national visitors around.
Inspired by a visit to internationally-renowned British artist Tom Young’s on-site exhibition at the Grand Hotel in Sofar in 2018 and in line with Sharqy Foundation’s mission to inspire and empower cultural development and innovation, Bacho invited Young to visit Hammam Al-Jadeed in May 2019 and see if he could bring the place alive as a centre of art, culture, historical learning and education.
That was the genesis of the exhibition ‘Revival’ which will feature 70 site-specific oil paintings exploring the history and memory of the Hammam and its context in Saida souq. It is planned to open in Hammam Al-Jadeed on Friday 18th September 2020. The exhibition has already been postponed twice due to revolutionary protests in Lebanon in October-November 2019 and the Coronavirus Pandemic lockdown in April 2020. Third time lucky.. the organisers believe that this is a time to be positive, if only on a small local scale.
By painting and filming on site, analysing archive material and interviewing elderly residents of Saida who still remember the Hammam when it was operating as a bathhouse, Young has pieced together a complex mosaic of what Hammam Al-Jadeed was, what it represented for the community and what it could be in the future.
Not only was it a place where local multi-religion multi-ethnic communities would meet and mix, it was also used to hold infamous wedding ceremonies. By reviving these stories through the lens of the present, it is hoped that exhibition can celebrate what different communities have in common, and inspire us going forward.
As well as a freely accessible art exhibition and museum, there will be documentary film screenings (featuring films by Tom Young, Tony H/Khoury and Jad Kas), concerts, theatrical performances and historical lectures on site. Shuttle buses from Beirut to Saida will be provided to bring people to these events. One of the featured lectures ‘Saida Through Visitors’ Eyes’ will be given by His Honour Christopher Young, the artist’s father, an academic historian and retired Judge. He has collected many antiquarian books about British and French travelers to Lebanon over the past 400 years; he will explore how they described Saida, placing various accounts within the historical context of regional events.
Hammam Al-Jadeed will also be a site of education: a series of art workshops for local school children, university students, orphans and refugee children on Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Local craftsmen are being employed to make preparations for the exhibition including hand-made frames for the paintings, a purpose-built light & sound system, and further site renovations to engage and benefit the local community.