"Backbone" is a collection of video performances, multichannel installations, and documentation about my relationship with my father, and his death in December 2020 in Lebanon. After a long and heavy battle with COVID19, my father surrendered and left us at the age of sixty-three. His passing was like an earthquake that shook my reality and left me broken.
My father, Melhem, was a traditional man that worked tirelessly to provide for his family. For many years, until his death, he worked every day in his shop in Aley, Mount Lebanon. Melhem was a man of faith and very respected in his town, he was also strict with his children and required a lot of attention. He was kind towards his family and friends, and loved them fiercely, but hid his feelings way beneath his tough exterior. My father was noticeably very proud of my only and eldest brother, Hassan. Hassan got married, had a child, and took over the family business.
How could I have told him who I was? I already looked different, I wore tight clothes and had non-traditional artistic hobbies. I was soft and sensitive and kept my sexuality hidden in a tightly sealed closet. Melhem always associated my lifestyle and looks with an artist's way of life. He was not interested in my art, but he cared about me and supported me financially in my endeavors.
I was always striving to make him proud, as proud he was of my older brother. I wanted to prove him wrong and succeed as an artist. This thought process, along with my persistence and my stubborn nature, are the reasons why I am an artist today and will continue on this journey. I am grateful to my father for this challenge, and it's one of the many reasons why I love him.
"Backbone" is an explosion of grief and other unprocessed emotions stemming from my childhood into my adult years. With this exhibition, I open up my world and depict the story of a gay Arab boy and his conservative father.
Berlin Art Prize – Backbone