AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

The Popular and Folkloric

Every nation, every imagined community, needs a folklore. Claims to the past lay the ground for those of the present and future, and demonstrating the possession of shared and rooted cultural practices and ways of life can serve multiple aims. Manoug assists in this demonstration via powerful photos of the “Lebanese nights” at Baalbeck. Tapping into the role of the Rahbanis, Fairouz, and Sabah, the presentation of images of folkloric practices, both rooted and invented, his oeuvre helped to build a sense of national identity and to create the common ground on which the multiple Lebanese communities could meet in a newly created nation space situated in strategic relation to the claims of Western “high art.” Famous European theater actors, dancers, opera singers, musicians, dramatists and poets would therefore also be incorporated into a representation of a local and traditional folkloric discourse to reinforce, and assert a view of a modern nation, one that is somehow also open to, engaged with and responsive to an international humanist culture.

In his introduction to the 1957 Baalbeck International Festival, President Camille Chamoun wrote:

“The historical role of Lebanon has been since time immemorial, is now, and will continue to be primarily the development of culture and civilization. In organizing this International Festival in the magnificent temples of Baalbeck at which great classic works of Music and Drama of rare beauty and power have been presented, Lebanon has been conscious of and faithful to its heritage.”

Echoing President Chamoun’s words, Ms. Aimee Kettaneh, President of the Baalbeck International Festival Committee, stated: “To the already enthusiastic audience that comes to Baalbeck we do not have to introduce this majestic Temple; we merely wish to reanimate these ruins for a few evenings, to recall to life, in a distant echo, the celebrations of antique festivals...

“The International Baalbeck Festival is forever/finally anchored in Lebanese and Near Eastern life. Years of effort and promise and initiatives are harvested today in a rich program spread out over five weeks on this plentiful Beqa' plain to restore to it its cultural glow which was promised it two thousand years ago by the builders and great priests.”

(Introduction to the Official International Baalbeck Festival Program of 1960)