Woman watering flowers
A woman waters flowers in Baddawi refugee camp, North Lebanon (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh 2018

To the Plants is Her Face

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh and Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (Refugee Hosts)

The plants which appear in this picture hinge partly on a short wall and partly on a used wooden chest of drawers primarily staged to encircle the entrance to the house and protect it from the curious eyes of passers-by. Or to ‘privatise’ part of the public space by appropriating it.

Underneath some of the pots, to the woman’s left, a recycled banner made of fabric, likely nylon, from a previous event that still bears the Arabic: … Palestine, Baddawi Camp, 8pm, All Welcome.

It is clear that the woman tending to the plants is the owner of the house. She waters the plants through a yellow hose that enables her to reach the other end without substantially altering her position.

Dressed in kohl-like blue, contrasted with a headscarf of a lighter shade of blue, she leans towards the first row of the plants with her back to the main road.

She looks engrossed in what she is doing, with her right hand almost touching a pale leaf – perhaps to snap it off its mother plant.

The non-ordinariness of this scene does not lie in the co-presence between the canonical grey of the camp and the green exception, but precisely in its interruptive nature as an anomaly whose sole value is to overpower the norm in/of the camp to make it more visible and ‘normal’.

It is the “beauty” “at the expense” and never “in conjunction with” or “in accordance to” that matters in this photograph – a photograph whose meaning is that of the place.


This piece continues a series of poetic responses to photographs taken by Refugee Hosts PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh during a field-trip to Baddawi refugee camp and the neighbourhood of Jebel al-Baddawi in North Lebanon, and to a range of neighbourhoods in Beirut in March-April 2018. Written by Refugee Hosts Writer-in-Residence Yousif M. Qasmiyehand/or PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, they reflect on everyday encounters in and dynamics of displacement.


Photograph by © Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Baddawi refugee camp, North Lebanon, April 2018.

 Read more creative responses to/as our research in our Creative Archive


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