In terms of the artists you collaborate with, how was the creative team brought together? What informed your selection process?
Yazan Al-Saadi: Bernadette and I had broken down the story into the idea of five characters. We wanted each chapter to be embodied by a certain artistic style. It was important for the artist to be a woman, from the area, not necessarily Lebanese, but has lived in Lebanon or can visually connect to the context.
Bernadette Daou: We sent many artists the script, and we met online with them. How they interacted with the story was also part of the selection for me.
Yazan Al-Saadi: When we went to them with the script, there was no ending. The fact that they were able to trust us to develop a collective ending to the story was cool. I don’t know if you guys freaked out when we came with a two thirds script, really…
Razan Wehbi: Yazan and Berna were trusting us with this work that was obviously very precious to them and trusting us to embody these characters properly. And there had to be trust from our side because an ending wasn’t written yet. Maybe in other projects, the owners would make those decisions, but there was a lot of trust and love involved from both sides and that’s what helped it come to life the way it has.
[T]here was a lot of trust and love involved from both sides and that’s what helped it come to life the way it has.
Joan Baz, illustrator of Haifa’s Story: When Yazan approached me, it was exciting to be part of a project that invites you to do your own research. You get text, but you don’t really get into it unless you research the era, watch videos, look into archives, and that in itself was enriching on a personal level.
Sirene Moukheiber, illustrator of Noora’s Story: And I remember when I first read the script, I only had three pages for Noora but I fell in love with her from the first three lines.
What about the real people who made it into this book? How did you pick figures like Warda Boutros, the first woman martyr in the fight for labor rights?
Bernadette Daou: We have this official story of independence, as if nothing existed before it. It is written by big men, rijallat al-isteklal, from the bourgeoisie who are well-connected on the international level, and had the privilege to write their story. The workers’ struggle was an important part of getting independence, but when they established the Lebanese state, they didn’t legislate the labor law to protect the workers. When they created the electoral law, they discriminated against women, so women didn’t have the right to vote.
This generation thought that by demanding a state, this would protect workers’ rights through labor laws and social security. That didn’t happen, so the struggle continued.The feminist movement has always historically drafted and recruited women from other movements: from the workers’ movements, from the student movements, from the leftist movement. So it was an important way to show linkages through these women. For example, Warda Boutros, in parallel to the story of independence, like Rawand has greatly put in front of each other, we got independence, but the struggle hasn’t stopped. They killed Warda Boutros after independence. This generation thought that by demanding a state, this would protect workers’ rights through labor laws and social security. That didn’t happen, so the struggle continued.
Along with the historical characters, there were also historical junctures that were weaved into the stories including the first Israeli invasion and the civil war. Can you speak about these choices?
Bernadette Daou: The study is articulated around four waves of women and feminist struggles in Lebanon if we want to start at 1943 with the movement of the sufragette. Each wave developed from a context. For example, from a nationalist struggle for independence to a leftist wave in the 1970s. That was also inspired by the rise of the new left in the same era; new because they saw that our societies, our movements, and the national independence regimes, are the causes behind which we lost the war. The third wave, which saw the light in the conjuncture of the reconstruction of the country after the civil war was the rise of a globalized feminist agenda. A Lebanese delegation participated in the Beijing conference that is mentioned in the script. And a fourth wave emerged within another new left now in 2000, and it was inspired by the Second Intifada, the liberation of the south, and an opposition movement within the old left, so these are the large epochs.