This week, ArteEast is pleased to present an interview with Ibrahim Nehme as part of this series.
Ibrahim Nehme is a creator and curator living in Lebanon and working on new media. His work is a cross-pollination between journalism, activism and creative expression, and could be situated as a series of attempts to shift the collective consciousness.
ArteEast: Can you tell us about your work in general and the main themes you return to in your writing practice?
IN: My work orbits around many hopes, but it always comes back to writing: writing new stories, writing better futures, writing as a process of emancipation. Through my work I am also interested in imagining new ways in which these writings could be read, sung, and celebrated. So, in the past I’ve co-founded a printed magazine about possibilities and another one about dance , initiated an internet community radio, created a card game to get people to write poetry, given workshops in creative storytelling, and opened a storytelling café where visitors bartered their cup of coffee for a story. And in between this and the other, I’ve written about love, for liberation, in verse, and always with the best of my intentions.
AE: Port Fiction is a web-based audiovisual documentary project dealing with the explosion in the Beirut port in 2020, done collaboratively by a group of artists from Lebanon and Germany. Why was it important for you to take part in this project?
IN: When Moritz pitched to me this project, I was still reeling from the explosion, still healing, and I thought that writing and talking about it could actually help. I was badly injured in the explosion and by then had written about it, which was a cathartic experience. Yet, it remained a very personal reflection, and Port Fiction offered to be a portal through which we could explore a more collective experience of trauma. How can we come together to heal together? There are many ways one could answer this question, and Port Fiction was one attempt at it.
AE: Although Port Fiction is a collaborative piece, in what ways does the project enhance your individual writing?
IN: I actually feel that it did the opposite; it helped me become more collaborative in my writing. For me, writing is such a hermetic process and I rarely let other people in on it. But with Port Fiction, I would write chunks of text, send them to Moritz who would riff off them, and his texts would inspire my next chunks and so on…
AE: As part of Port Fiction’s development, the Lebanese participating artists travelled to Hamburg, and took part in collective walks and workshops so as to experience for themselves aspects that connected and differentiated the two cities. What was that experience like for you and how do you think it informed your input in the collective project?
IN: The city inspired our experience for sure, but it was the coming together of all of us that transformed both our experience of the project and the project itself. For me the experience was definitely healing and self-expanding in so many ways, and I believe the project could not have broken through without all of us being physically present with one another.
AE: What or who are some of your major creative influences, and why?
IN: Always a tough question, but: I am inspired by those who bend the present with their imagination, and change the future as a result. So, off the top of my mind, here is a non-exhaustive list that transcends genres and geographies: Etel Adnan, Youssef El-Khal, Fariha Roisin, Maya Angelou, Rebecca Solnit, Samir Kassir, James Baldwin, Harold Hayes, Leonard Bernstein, Anthony Shadid, Juliano Mer Khamis, Mary Oliver, Mashrou Leila…
AE: What are you currently working on and do you have any new projects or publications upcoming in 2023-2024?
IN: I am currently writing a performance about a story that fell in my lap 7 years ago, when I met artist and poet Etel Adnan. I will perform it in January at the Neumarkt Theater in Zurich as part of their grief festival, which I am also co-curating. I am also preparing for the launch of my new app, which is a writing game that will make you write better. I promise.
IBRAHIM NEHME ONLINE: