Volvos from war-torn Lebanon inspire Fort Langley art exhibit

An exhibition shares a new perspective on the refugee crisis and the role Swedish automobiles play.

Fort Gallery steps out of the traditional landscape and portrait type art show, and into the world of war with its latest exhibit opening next week.

But it’s war from a very different prespective.

The gallery is hosting a special exhibit by Scott Campbell – in partnership with MCC British Columbia. The show is entitled Volvos of Lebanon: Stories of Refugees, Resilience, and Reliable Cars and is on display from next Wednesday, Nov. 22 until Dec. 10.

It features a series of large format images that have been paired with stories that Campbell published online daily during his travels in Lebanon.

He explained a bit of how the concept for this show first came to fruition.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war in spring of 2011, Lebanon has been on the front lines of the Middle East refugee crisis, with more than a million people entering the country seeking asylum, Campbell said.

Today, one in four people living in Lebanon has been displaced from Syria, Iraq, or Palestine.

In May 2016, a group from Mennonite Central Committee – a faith-based relief and humanitarian aid organization – travelled to Lebanon to learn more about the organization’s response in the region.

Campbell, MCC BC’s advancement director, was among them. He was formerly a Trinity Western University student and later an administrator with the Langley-based post-secondary school.

Anyway, it was the Volvo enthusiast inside that prompted Campbel to start snapping images of the “surprisingly numerous” Volvos he saw while travelling the country.

“I found these cars’ presence in Lebanon a bit jarring. Volvos are typically Western vehicles known for their safety features,” he said.

“They seem out of place in this Eastern country emerging from internal conflicts and a neighbour to countries deeply scarred by ongoing fighting. Yet these cars are resilient. They persist, sometimes damaged, but seemingly miraculously,” Campbell elaborated.

“For me, these cars play a kind of stand-in role for their owners. Bombarded by images of people in need, I see these vehicles as proxies for people whose stories parallel the lives lived in and through these cars,” he said.

The exhibit features images and stories from the frontlines of the world’s largest refugee crisis, sharing a new perspective on a conflict that will have a lasting impact on individuals, families, and communities in the Middle East and here in British Columbia, this artist shared.

“From a car featured in front of ancient Roman ruins in the century old city of Baalbek, to its boxy doppelganger lost in the midst of a busy neighbourhood in Sidon crowded with people who have fled conflict in their home countries, to a family speeding down a highway through the capital Beirut, each Volvo reminds the viewer that though the crisis is large and complicated it impacts individuals and families, not unlike us, whose lives have been forever impacted by conflicts not of their own making.”

The gallery is located at 9048 Glover Rd. in Fort Langley, and is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information about upcoming shows, people can visit the Fort Gallery website.

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