The Bourj Hammoud district in Lebanon is the geographical extension of Beirut City along the Mediterranean coastline. It constitutes the suburb immediately east of the capital, by the seaside-separated by the Beirut River. Housing a population of roughly 100,000 persons, it is a dense working class district, extending over an area of 0.96 square-miles or 2.4 km2 within the Greater Beirut municipality.
After 1928, Armenian refugees who survived the Ottoman persecutions began migrating to this area, settling in compact quarters organized into regular gridiron patterns. Each quarter was populated by natives from a village in their original homeland in Anatolia, modern day Turkey, which re-gifted its name to the new quarter such as Marash, Nor-Adana, and Nor-Sis.
My parents, both survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, met and were married in Damascus, Syria, only to relocate their family to Bourj Hammoud in 1949. It is here where I was born and lived for 20 years before moving to southern California at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war in 1975.
Bourj Hammoud became a safe haven for many Armenians who were forced to leave their homes and subsequently converge in this one square mile territory to create a new home away from home. Erecting schools, churches, cultural centers and maintaining political affiliations with concerted national codes were a part of the effort to maintain a level of subsistence. It was here, also, where national identity was resurrected as a means to hold on to what was violently ended in the homeland. From 1935 to 1985 this tiny enclave was the cultural, intellectual and political beacon of the Armenian Diaspora.
During the course of a 15-year conflict, most Armenian inhabitants of the quarter emigrated out to seek respite, while others moved out of the area to better their social ranking. Today, like many dwindling Christian minorities across the Middle East, Bourj Hammoud struggles to retain its Armenian character against a tide of political uncertainty engulfing the region.
Between 2008-2009, I returned to my hometown twice to be with my terminally ill older brother who had lived all his life in Bourj Hammoud. The district has gone through dramatic changes; not only in terms of becoming an important commercial hub but also due to the migration of its predominantly Armenian population, whose distinctive mark of character is disappearing from the area.
Every resident of this suburb can offer a plethora of interesting and enchanting stories - in this book are only some of the many images captured during my visit to this special place. My intimate relationship with its narrow streets, the sights and sounds, and its peculiar characters has been an important source of inspiration all my life.
This book is my story, a tribute to all the residents of Bourj Hammoud.
WHY AM I MAKING THIS BOOK?
I want to create a lasting legacy about a place, which for more than 50 years served as cultural, intellectual and political beacon for the Armenian Diaspora. This important place - often called Little Armenia - this colony is the last bastion of Armenian collective memory as it is the direct consequence of a crime against humanity perpetrated over 100 years ago against Armenian population living in their homeland.
"What is important for a photographer is involvement. It’s not a propaganda means, photography, but it’s a way of shouting what you feel." Henry Cartier Bresson
I want you to be a part of this community. I need your support to make this book happen - to have it printed and get it out in to the hands of people everywhere who are interested in Bourj Hammoud’s narrative. Help me preserve this story and all of the characters of this surreal quarter before it dwindles into history.
FUNDING ABOVE $17,500 USD WILL ALLOW ME TO DONATE COPIES OF BIRDS' NEST BOOK TO LIBRARIES AND SCHOOLS.
Risks and challenges
I have already invested significant time and effort creating this project. Since much of the design of the book is already completed and the print-shop has been selected, I don’t anticipate major problems. If this campaign is successful, we will do everything possible to make sure the book is published and available in September 2015.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)