Taking Refuge: Weaving Memory and History in Comics

A Conversation with Zeina Abirached (comic artist) and Rasha Chatta (EUME Fellow 2017-19), introduced by Aaron Tugendhaft (Bard College Berlin)


In this conversation, celebrated Lebanese comics artist and illustrator Zeina Abirached will be discussing the sources of inspiration for her work. Beirut has been central to her artistic vision as she draws on family stories and childhood memories, weaving them with archival material. Abirached has achieved a unique visual aesthetics, experimenting with modes of documentation in graphic form, and dealing with representations of spaces of conflict and experiences of loss. The conversation will feature samples from her earlier work such as Mourir, partir, revenir. Le jeu des hirondelles [The Game of Sparrows, 2007], Je me souviens Beyrouth [I remember Beirut, 2008] and Le piano oriental [The Oriental Piano, 2015], as well as more recent works. Rasha Chatta will engage the author on the significance of her art and work, and Aaron Tugendhaft will introduce the event.

The event is organized in cooperation with Bard College Berlin and Cabinet Magazine Berlin.

Zeina Abirached is an illustrator, graphic novelist, and comic artist. She studied at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA) and the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. Her publications include Le piano oriental (2015), Agatha de Beyrouth (2011), Je me souviens. Beyrouth (2009), Mourir, partir, revenir. Le jeu des hirondelles (2007), 38, rue Youssef Semaani (2006), Beyrouth Catharsis (2006), and Prendre refuge, co-written with Mathias Enard (2018). She was recently awarded the ‘chevalier’ medal of distinction of the “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”.

Rasha Chatta earned her PhD in Cultural, Literary, and Postcolonial Studies from SOAS, University of London, with a dissertation focussing on the theorisation of contemporary Arab migrant literature. She also holds degrees in Near and Middle Eastern Studies and History of the Middle East and North Africa from SOAS and Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris I).
She taught courses on Arab women’s literature and Arab cinema at SOAS between 2011-2016 and is currently co-teaching a course on the contemporary visual cultures of the Middle East at Bard College Berlin. Since 2017, she is a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien where she is working on a book project on migration and Arab comics.
Her research interests include visual aesthetics and memory, Middle Eastern comics, approaches to world literature, migrant and diasporic literatures, and war literature with a focus on Lebanon and Syria. She has a forthcoming chapter titled ‘Conflicts and Migration in Lebanese Graphic Narratives’ in The Sage Handbook of Media and Migration.

Aaron Tugendhaft is a scholar of the ancient Middle East and a dedicated humanities teacher focusing on religion, political philosophy, and the arts. He received his PhD from the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University in 2012. He also holds degrees in Art History and Social Thought from the University of Chicago.
Before coming to Bard College Berlin where he now teaches, he was a Harper Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago. He has also held postdoctoral fellowships at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, the W. F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. In 2013, he received the Jonas Greenfield Prize for Younger Semitists from the American Oriental Society. He is co-editor, with Josh Ellenbogen, of Idol Anxiety (Stanford 2011) and the author of Baal and the Politics of Poetry (Routledge 2018). His next book, The Idols of ISIS, explores the role of images in politics from ancient Assyria to the Internet today.

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