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Home » Megumi Yoshitake: A Japanese Photographer in the Syrian Desert

Megumi Yoshitake: A Japanese Photographer in the Syrian Desert

Photo London, 16-19 May 2024

Yoshitake first visited Syria on her own in 1987. When she got married, in 2001, she spent her honeymoon there, and in 2004 when her son was just sixteen months old, the family travelled to Syria all together. They returned every year. Megumi writes about how she spent part of every year -between 1995 and 2011- living with a Bedouin family in Shaban, the Syrian desert near Palmyra. “The ‘Bedouin -from the Arabic badija, or “people who live in the wasteland- are traditionally nomads of Arab ethnicity. In fact, “Arab” was at one time synonymous with “Bedouin,” and even today the Bedouin people in the Syrian desert proudly refer to themselves as Arab. Most of them speak Arabic as their native language.

“Life each day began at 5:30 in the morning when we woke up. The bedding the Bedouin use is about the same as the Japanese futon. They spread a mat on the ground in the house and sleep on top of the mat with mattresses and blankets. The pillows are twice as long as Japanese ones and are laid out underneath the mattresses. During the daytime, the pillows become armrests for guests. I always slept in a woman’s room, huddled together with the children.”

Yoshitake emphasises the emotions stirred by the Syrian people and landscape during the years she spent there. She mentions its ‘rich culture, beautiful nature, delicious food. They are filled with hospitality, with care for one another, they spend time with their families and overflow with kindness.”

“I have been considering the future of the Bedouin. The world around them is changing, and some cultures will disappear. Modest, possessing a strong sense of self-control, full of consideration for others, respecting their elders, cooperating, sharing, holding a deep love for their family in their hearts ― these are the traits of the Bedouin. I think these are qualities born out of their lifestyle in the desert. No others hold the honoured customs of the Arab world in such a pure form, and I for one never want to see them vanish,” she mentioned by in 2006.

Litehouse Gallery represents and promotes the work of emerging contemporary artists. We aim to create a hub and community for Syrian artists in the UK, and encourage new forms of cultural exchange between Syrian and British artists.

Founded in London in 2017 by Raghad Mardini, the gallery evolved from Art Residence Aley, an NGO founded in 2012 in Beirut. We stand for integrity, freedom of expression, and strive to address the misconceptions that exist about the Syrian people and their present predicament.

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