Sepia Prints (2014 - Present)
Portraits of Denial & Desire Sepia

Ibrahim Warda. Digital Print. Sepia.
80 x 60 and 110 x 80 inches
John Halaka © 2015

Ibrahim Warda was born in 1984 in Borj El Barajneh Camp for Palestinian Refugees, in Beirut, Lebanon.  His grandfather’s large family was forcibly displaced from the village of Ghabisiyya, in the Akka District of Northern Palestine. The Warda family joined the “river of humanity” that was being driven from Palestine by Zionist forces in 1948, and traveled on foot to Lebanon with nothing but the clothe on their backs. Part of the family sheltered in El Bus Refugee Camp in the south, while another part of his grandfather’s immediate family was forced to move north, to Borj El Barajneh Refugee Camp.

The life of a refugee living in the camp is defined by an endless daily cycle of competing for scarce resources and services. Life in a refugee camp does not in the slightest resemble anything that most people would define as normal. For children born in the camps and growing up as the second, third or fourth generation of Palestinian refugees, their worldview is defined by a tension between familial support and political repression.  This dialectic constitutes the oppressive yet nurturing world of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Ibrahim spoke of growing up with a perpetual sense of imminent violence surrounding him in the camps.  Violence from Israeli raids and incursions that have repeatedly destroyed most of the camps in Lebanon and large parts of the country; violence from the Lebanese military and the various militias who blame and aggressively persecute the refugees for everything that goes wrong in the country; violence amongst Palestinian factions whose missions are more often defined by the egotistical self-interest of their leaders, instead of the needs and interests of the people; and violence amongst individuals, whose pent up rage, frustrations and mistrust are often unleashed at the slightest provocation against their own communities. 

Ibrahim told me, “even someone who loves you one day can stab you in the back the next day.” He meant that literally.

Without knowing it, Ibrahim’s words described the layers of psychological and physical violence that Frantz Fanon articulated in his classic book “The Wretched of the Earth.”  Patterns of orchestrated violence are carefully designed by the colonizers to trap the colonized in perpetual cycles of petty, yet brutal engagements that will sap the energy of the colonized and redirect it away from the colonizer.

Ibrahim Warda is a complex young man who is bright, poetic, restless, jaded and angry; very angry. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeves, but keeps them carefully contained under an unpolished mask of calmness.  But with slightest prompt to rap his poetry, Ibrahim’s anger courses out to quickly fill the room with a rapid, yet rhythmic, current of words that feel like the lethal articulations of a carefully controlled machine gun.

“I like rap because I saw that black people were denied rights, just like the Palestinians.  For them it was because they were black. Hip Hop Rap is a form of Intifada.  A resistance that is very appropriate for us.   The word as weapon, can be more effective and lethal then the Kalashnikov…”