So that generally describes the situation when in 1981, and thereby right in the middle of these troubling times, Zeina Abirached was born in Beirut.Her life was destined to become largely affected by an atmosphere of constant threat and daily fears for ones own safety and for loved ones.
While studyings Art in Beirut later on, Zeina Abirached started to draw comic books in 2002 to deal with her personal history. All of her publications since have been strongly influenced by her autobiographical background, mostly dealing with her childhood during this military conflict and daily life in Lebanon: Cambourakis has published her titles "Beyrouth Catharsis" (2006), "38, rue Youssef Semaani" (2006), "Mourir, partir, revenir – Le Jeu des hirondelles" (2007), "Je me souviens" (2009) and "Agatha de Beyrouth" (2011).
In 2012 "Mourir, partir, revenir" has been adapted into an English version by Graphic Universe/Lerner Publishing Group under the title "A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return" and is now followed by a German translation published by Berlin based publisher avant as "Das Spiel der Schwalben".
The graphic novel has been awarded the FACE French Voices GrantFor the very special way Zeina Abirached has documented these trying war times.More than 200 pages confront us with a single day set in 1948 Beirut. Her personal memories, stories provided by relatives and neighbours, and a retrospect on political issues are cleverly woven into the story.
"My work is mainly based on autobiographical facts, as the aspect of everyday life during war times is rather important to me. How have people managed to live with this war for 15 years? People like my parents who stayed in the city [of Beirut]. I would like to show how existence was like within the houses, apartments and lifes. These documentary aspects are what interest me. So I recount what kind of efforts were necessary to gain access to water, electricity, vegetables, fuel, and all that kind of stuff.", Zeina said in an interview with D-Radio.
Still, her work is not just dealing with her personal issues, but takes on a much bigger one – providing important facts of a huge part of Lebanese history that is about to rapidly sink into oblivion in her mother country.
For many years now Zeina Abirached has been living in Paris, where she works as a graphic designer and illustrating and comic book artist. Her style is largely dominated by reduced, yet impressive and ornamental black and white drawings mostly due to the fact that she – as she puts it in the above mentioned interview – "said goodbye to every aspect of her art that wasn't absolutely necessary to carry her story." So colour was obviously the first thing to go.