D I S A P P E A R A N C E














         This is a man’s house, even

         though your wife has lived

         here alone for the past 20

         years. 


         She has the custom

         of rearranging the living

         and dining areas each few

         months, and every time I visit 

         the configuration is decidedly

         different.


         Yet with each of these moves

         there remains a chair, a 

         place setting, ready for you,

         at the head of the table.




         I imagine you light and agile, 

         always greeting the maid with 

         respect. 


         I imagine men pausing 

         in conversation, waiting for

         you to speak, and your wife

         wanting to make things

         graceful for you; your shirts

         ironed, your salads well

         seasoned, your papers

         dusted but left undisturbed.





         I think I see the form of your 

         foot in the outline of my

         husband’s feet. I know this

         slight detail of DNA must

         come from you because

         my husband and his brother

         have the same lean feet with 

         a second toe longer than

         the first. 


         Their mother’s foot is wide

         with soft plump toes that

         descend, each one shorter

         than the one before.










Libyan opposition leader Jaballa Matar was kidnapped in March of 1990. Egyptian secret service agents took him from his home in Cairo where he was living in exile. The following day he was handed over to the Gaddafi regime.


In 1995 the family received a letter written in Jaballa’s handwriting that had been smuggled out of Abu Salim prison. They have had no news of Jaballa since. 


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Sound Piece: 


To listen to the sound piece click below.


Narrative voice. 3.25 minute loop.

Excerpt below.

This is a man’s house, even though your wife has lived here alone for most of the past 20 years. She has the custom of moving the living and dining areas each few months, and each time I visit the configuration of the home is decidedly different. But with each of these moves there remains a chair, a place setting ready for you at the head of the table, awaiting your return as if by a miracle you will walk through the door. I imagine you light and agile, placing your keys by the door, never misplacing anything, and forever greeting the maid with respect. I imagine men pausing in conversation, waiting for you to speak, and your wife wanting to make things graceful for you; your shirts ironed, your salads well seasoned and fresh, your papers dusted but left undisturbed. What I cannot imagine is standing before you, of being in your sphere.

I look for you in the traces you have left behind. I think I see the form of your foot in the outline of my husband’s feet. I know it must be yours because my husband and his brother have the same long lean feet with a second toe longer than the first and their mother’s foot is flat, with wide soft plump toes that descend each one shorter than the one before. There are thousands of these details pointing to your being. But none which add up to you.

I have come across a tissue that my husband found in one of your old coat pockets: something that should have been thrown out, and in its' time would have been looked at with mild annoyance but because you are gone becomes treasured, silently. I am afraid to touch it, afraid that my own oils will break down something precious, some residue of life. I photograph the tissue. I want it to be more than what it is, to evoke your presence, yet all I see in the developed image is a tissue,crumpled and old.

I drive to the outskirts of the city, new roads built since you were taken – apartment blocks and high rise office buildings that sprout from the depths of the disappearing desert. My nephew Jaballa, your first grandson, named after you, and whom you have never met has come with me. We walk together over dunes, he carries my tripod before I ask and points out shadows in the sand, knowing my eye is tuned to that kind of thing. He takes the camera from my hand, teasing me, holding it high above his head and just out of my reach; he is getting taller now. We look east towards the Cairo skyline. I have the comforting and vaguely familiar vertigo of nothing, and noone watching us, only God.


One day I return from the desert. Tariq, your second grandson is taking apart an old stereo and amplifier. Everyone in the family says he is the most like you. He dismantles the apparatus into countless small pieces. I am afraid he will leave them for others to pick up,but he painstakingly cleans every one and then puts the stereo and amplifier back together again. He plugs it in and it works – no static – the volume is just right. Your wife takes the microphone and begins to sing and I hear your name.






Exhibitions. 

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Houston FotoFest International. March - April 2016. All works will be exhibtied along with works from Evidence and Witness - 45 works in total.

 

Rick Wester Fine Art. New York, NY. September October 2015. Works shown with works from Evidence and Witness. 30 works in total. 


Gouen Museum of Photography, Busan Korea. August - November 2015. All works exhibtied along with works from Evidence and Witness - 45 works in total. 


Rayko Photo Center, San Francisco. USA.  2015. 3 Prints. 


Paris Photo, 2014 2 prints and framed text piece. 


Saatchi Gallery, 2010. Borders Exhibition. 

Gelatin silver prints and MP3 sound piece in 

3.5 minute loop. Three head phones on plinth. 


Publications.


Evidence, Monograph. Schilt Publishing 2014.


Source, Irish Journal of Photography, Issue 56


Ojo de Pez, Issue 35, Autobiografias.


Collections.


Santa Barbara Museum. USA.


Deutsche Bank permanant collection, London.


Private collections, England, America. 


Limited Edition Prints. 


Several of the images in this series are available as limited edition silver gelatin prints.  


Institutioinal and Festival Editions.


For institutions, public galleries, and festivals Disappearance can be shown along with Evidence and Witness. The three bodies of work, about enforced disappearance and state terror during the Gaddafi regime, can be produced for large or small venues.


 d.m.matar@gmail.com


 



 


 





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