SUN KINGS is a body of photographs that investigates the catastrophic legacy of the political and geographical aftermath of the First World War in the modern Middle East. Specifically, I am interested in the visual language representing the overlapping of hubristic map-making by the Allied Western powers with the opulent and baroque imagery of early 20th century Paris and Versailles, where the borders of the modern Middle East were determined. In his monumental book, The Great War for Civilization, British foreign correspondent, Robert Fisk wrote:
After the Allied victory of 1918, at the end of my father’s war, the victors divided up the lands of their former enemies. In the space of just seventeen months, they created the borders of Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and most of the Middle East. And I have spent my entire career - in Belfast and Sarajevo, in Beirut and Baghdad - watching the peoples within those borders burn.
This project is meant as an inquiry into this time of riches and betrayal, as well as the circuitous paths by which the consequences of this moment traveled. During the Paris Peace Conference, which included the signing of the treaties of Versailles and Sévres, native communities of the Middle East had no presence as their lands were divided amongst France and Britain (with the exception of Prince Feisal, who had been weakened and betrayed to the point of irrelevance at that point). Neither France nor Britain seemed particularly interested or concerned with the long-standing ethnic and tribal layout of the region. Today, the great-grandchildren of these original Arab communities wake in refugee camps and lands eviscerated by conflict, poverty and bloodletting. And for them, these treaties, duplicitous promises (the Balfour Declaration) and secret agreements (Sykes-Picot) may as well have been made not a hundred years ago but last night. Particularly cruel is the continuity between these original colonial interests and their contemporary guardians in Arab governments who have managed to so viciously oppress their populations with Western blessings and support. My photographs will reflect an interpretive intersection of colonial power (maps, Orientalism, etc.) and its labyrinthine relationships with the Arab world, and the sense of erasure that continues to bloom across the Middle East like a consuming negative space. For the Arab inheritors of Western power, memory, identity, bodies and homes continue to burn in the paths of cavalries, colonies and occupation.