Lebanon 05 Mar 2018 09:36
Nibal remembers, like many others do; he remembers his violent death in Lebanon’s 15 year long civil war. Just three years old, Nibal guided his family to the ‘previous’ home on Mount Lebanon. Inside, he knew the names and stories of each person in his ‘old family.’ “He remembers,” Nibal’s friends introduced him. The two ominous words echoe from mouth to mouth among the Druze, without the heavy weight of what to some others may seem as an antiquated spiritual hearsay. Belief in reincarnation, or ‘Taqamus’ in Arabic - loosely translated as ‘wearing another shirt’ - forms a big part of the Druze minority in Lebanon, who have historically escaped persecution in the fortress-like terrain on Mount Lebanon, and managed to coexist under succession of rulers since the faith’s split from Islam in the 11th century. Some historians even attribute Fakhr-Al-Din, the Druze leader in the 17th century, as the founder of modern Lebanon. The religion itself remains submerged in secrecy, with its teaching available only to those who embark on a life-long path of becoming a sheikh. In the wake of Lebanon’s 15 year old civil war, a generation of children grew up remembering their violent deaths. Far from sporadic instances, people like Nibal grew up studying their ‘previous’ lives, questioning how much of that knowledge influenced their present-life decisions. During my six month stay in Lebanon, I met various individuals among the Druze religious and cultural community, and explored the historic Mount Lebanon areas. After an initial meeting, I’m maintaining contact with the Druze Council Minister of Culture, whose 24 year old son is currently hospitalised with cancer. The philosophy of reincarnation has historically made the Druze into fearsome fighters, and in today’s world, has helped families confront death. For this photoessay / long-form story, I am focusing on one aspect of the Druze faith - the unwavering belief in reincarnation. To supplement the interviews and observations, I have studied Druze history, as well as the religious beliefs available to the public.