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Explosive art in Beirut explores power of cultural identity

In an exhibition at the Saleh Barakat Gallery in Beirut, Lebanese artist Katya Traboulsi celebrates cultural diversity while highlighting the way that fear of difference drives a never-ending cycle of conflict.
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“When you have kids, you live in constant fear of the future,” says Katya Traboulsi, seated in the spacious underground exhibition hall of the Saleh Barakat Gallery in Beirut. Behind her are 47 sculptures. Each is made from different materials and decorated in a unique style, but all of them share the same basic shape: They are modeled on the bombshells that razed swaths of Beirut’s urban fabric to the ground during the horrific civil war that formed the backdrop to Traboulsi’s teenage years.

“Since the First World War, the Second World War and what’s happening now [in Syria], we’re not learning,” Traboulsi laments. “We need to be at war. We need to destroy the other. Why? We’re all the same. We all have blood and bodies and fear and emotions. It’s just physical appearance and geography that create different identities.”

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