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                     9, PLACE DES VOSGES - F- 75004 PARIS

               TEL. : 33 - 01 42 78 21 00 - FAX : 33 - 01 42 78 86 73

                       E-MAIL : MARQUARPFE@AOL.COM


1999 - JANUARY 6, 2000

Khiam detention center in Israeli occupied south Lebanon was created
in 1985 following the establishment of the Ansar 1 and Ansar 2, prisons
camps, where thousands of Lebanese, Palestinians, members of the
political resistance and simply innocent victims have been detained
arbitrarily since the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon in 1978. Those
persons detained in this camp were essentially the local population
refusing to cooperate or collaborate with the Israeli mandated army of
South Lebanon (SLA). These individuals were victims of illegal arrest,
brutal interrogations, torture, and were then thrown into minute cells
of this ancient citadel, where forgotten, they sometimes endured long
years of detention. The conditions of the Khiam detention center are
abominable, and those who are imprisoned there are without any civil
or human rights and without any legal due process or judgment. Khiam
is synonymous with all that can be described as "arbitrary", secret,
illegal. Until December 1995 those detained were totally cut off from all
communication with the outside world. In 1995 the International
Committee of the Red Cross was minimally admitted to the camp where
they were allowed by the authorities to organize written
correspondence between the inmates and their families, and a very few
visits which are arbitrarily suspended at the whim of the prison officials
controlled by the SLA. One hundred and forty four individuals (the
majority Lebanese) of which there are 2 children, 5 women, (two
young women, one woman journalist, an elderly 68 year old woman
and one other, the mother of 4 children…), and very old and very
seriously ill individuals are arbitrarily detained at Khiam. At the age of
21, Soha Bechara was arrested, tortured and thrown into the prison
without a trial and spent 10 years in Khiam, 6 of which she spent in
solitary confinement in a cell measuring 80 centimeters x 180
centimeters. Soha Bechara was released on the 3rd of September 1998
thanks to an international human rights campaign.

Khiam is just one of the infinite numbers of camps and prisons
throughout the world where the conditions of detention are clear
violations of the Geneva conventions and our beloved Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. Thousands of men, women and children
are arrested arbitrarily, incarcerated without being charged with any
crime, and held without legal due process and trial. They are beaten,
tortured, relegated in many cases to solitary confinement for years and
try to survive in these terrifying conditions. In Khiam like in many such
"prisons", it is primordial for these individuals to find a way to stay
alive, to stay conscious of their state… and to communicate.
Otherwise they will not survive their incarceration and that important
fantasized connection with the outside world and the hope that it
brings disappears and the beginning of physical and mental
disintegration replaces all faith and confidence in the future. The
ongoing and constant struggle to invent and reinvent, each day they
are in prison, a way to communicate, create and reflect becomes the
motivating force for their survival.

The exhibition of "art in detention" shows this vital need to create in
the most inhuman and insupportable circumstances… the need to
exist through these simple handmade works of art. In creating these
modest and unpretentious artistic objects and even inventing the
materials to make them, the body and soul keeps in perpetual motion,
and keeps hope alive in the absence of loved ones and friends. With an
absolute minimum or total lack of (in most cases) traditional means and
materials at their disposal the prisoners in Khiam succeeded in defying
their tormentors and in this extreme form of civil
disobedience…they managed to preserve their humanity, and
their integrity.

This phenomenon can be observed in many such prisons and illegal
detention centers worldwide. The real heroes of this century, of our
millenium, the real philosophers, creators, artists, inventors are those,
like Nelson Mandela (26 years in prison of which a great number was
spent in total isolation), all those prisoners who have the strength to
fight, to resist, not just out of the basic instinct to survive but because
life had no meaning without creation. The expression of this vital need
to communicate and share with those loved ones so far away and all of
us who constitute humanity is profoundly manifested in the art
(handicrafts, painting, writing poetry and music) created "in
detention". Those very individuals who everyday lived a hell on earth
learned to invent and reinvent their lives evolving in spite of the
unlivable conditions.

The prisoners at Khiam salvaged pieces of paper, plastic, metal, small
stones, threads pulled out of their own clothes (pullovers, socks,
T-shirts, shirts, prison uniforms pieces of cloth cut out from their shirts,
trousers, djellabas (caftans)…), and all kinds of rubbish (fish
bones, the plastic teeth of combs, pieces of electrical wire… to
fabricate pictures, hangings, tapestries, prayer beads and many other
objects. The gallery will exhibit these unique works, somewhere
between art and handicraft, sensitive, strong and full of love and
emotion and especially when one considers in the extraordinary
manner they were created and the story of those who made them.

The exhibition will enable the public to discover, at first, objects that
have been created by prisoners of prison camps in Israel, then those
that have been created by prisoners in Khiam detention center before
and after the admission of the International Committee of the Red
Cross in 1995. The Red Cross brought not only incredible hope to the
inmates at Khiam but also some new materials, with which the inmates
could work and create. These prisoners have developed and exchanged
incredible techniques of fabrication. Those objects are often dedicated
to members of their family (parents, brothers and sisters,
nephews…) with a signature and a few words, testimonies of
love, tenderness, distress, solitude, despair and sometimes

Some visual documents will provide information about the camp itself.
The reconstitution of the isolation cells (90 x 90 x 90 cm for men, 80 x
180 x 200 cm for women) will give the viewer a very realistic way in
which to understand the conditions in which the prisoners have to stay
not for a few days or a few weeks but years.

We will also exhibit the photographs of the prisoners' families made by
Josée Lambert, who, with great sensitivity, puts a face on the distress,
the sorrow, the hope, the despair of those loved ones waiting outside
and who over the years had no idea of the whereabouts or the fate of
those they loved.

And we will try to establish link between us, the public in France, and
the prisoners, with the project "Poste restante" - letters to the inmates
of Khiam so that the names and identities of the inmates will be
revealed so that they will more than just an abstraction for us. We will
have the opportunity to write to them personally. The letters will be
photocopied before they are sent to Khiam. However they will probably
never get to their destination and this action will confirm to us the total
impossibility to communicate with the inmates at Khiam. And this is the
point of this seemingly futile exercise. We will try to trace the letters
throughout this occupied and unreachable territory. Those letters will
then be used as part of an international human rights campaign, which
will try to put an end to illegal detention centers like Khiam. Part of this
campaign will be a book of these letters to the prisoners.

At the dawning of the third millenium, we shouldn't be simply satisfied
with our numerous celebrations, events, festivities for 2000 (?) years of
history, without thinking and reflecting upon the real meaning of this
date, as a "day of reckoning," What kind of "sign" does Humanity need
to look at its own history with realism, and honesty, and to face the
failures of the past and move on to a more human and humane world?