From War; Art

Abdul Rehman Katanani

Katanani hails from the Sabra refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. He was born in 1983, and is a third generation Palestinian refugee, resulting due to the Israeli invasion of Palestine. Katanani was brought up in possibly one of the worst recesses of the world.

He was raised in the Sabra Refugee camp, a place that had suffered a massacre at the hands of the Israeli army and the lebanese christian militia in 1982, only a year before his birth. His parents had escaped the camp before the massacre, an event that took the lives of many women, children and elderly. But his grandfather refused to run again, previously having been made to flee his hometown of Jaffa in Palestine.

Katanani was born in a world bereft of infrastructure, public services, education, health departments and even social and economic rights(the Lebanese government denied the Palestinians refugees those). A refugee in a country invaded by the same who forced his grandparents to flee their homes. Despite, Katanani turned to his creative side. A boy with a need to express in stuck in a war zone, the teenager started with graffiti and colorful caricatures on the walls of the camp with nationalistic symbolism and text. Slowly he started using material found and collected around the camp itself to make sculptures and installations to address the cause of the Palestinian refugee. According to Wafa Roz of the Dalloul Art Foundation,

Between 2008 and 2010, he created a collection of assemblages incorporating zinc metal sheets, kitchen utensils, pre-used garments, and laundry pegs; all materials collected from the camp. At first sight, the materials seem like scraps, but, for him, they represent the survival kit of a refugee: shelter, food, and clothing.

Among the materials he uses, corrugated sheets, barbed wire and bottle caps of soda bottles remain the most common. All of these are drawn from his childhood experience in the camp and the sheet roofing he helped his father to put on houses as a kid. they used bottle caps, for a lack of proper bolts, and a nail driven through to keep the corrugated sheet in place.

He received a French passport in 2019 and currently lives in the Dibieh, a Lebanese village. He’s built a studio there but kept his studio in Sabra too. As he put it to Whitewall,

“ -It’s(the studio in Sabra) the place where I get inspired. It is messy and full of energy. My new studio is much larger, which allows me to be more interactive with the space and understand it better. It’s been a turning point in my practice.”

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