Much of Diana Matar’s work is concerned with the traces of dictatorship, colonialism, and state sponsored violence that influence the contemporary social order of our world. In 2012, seven months after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Matar travelled to Libya to photograph sites of political violence. Responding to atrocities dating from 1977 to 2011, Evidence presents landscape and architectural spaces where human rights violations took place during both the Gaddafi dictatorship and the ensuing Libyan civil war. ‘As often is the case with human rights violations there is rarely any physical evidence of the crime, no body, no marked grave, no forensic proof,’ Matar has said. Here the images stand in for ‘evidence’ to acts of violence that were undocumented and in many cases covered up by the regime. The accompanying personal and historical texts in the installation of works provide testament to each event. Matar has described Evidence as ‘a response to the enforced disappearance of my father in law, a Libyan opposition leader who was taken by the Gaddafi regime in 1990,’ and her work is a comment not only on the effects of dictatorship on a nation, but equally on the families and communities left behind.
Shoair Mavlian, Curator, Tate Modern, London
Information regarding what occurred at the sites where these photographs were taken.
On April 7th, 1977 Omar Dabboub and Mohammed bin Saud were executed by public hanging at this street corner in Benghazi. Dabboub a student, and bin Saud, a teacher, had been taking part in a peaceful street protest at Benghazi University. Their bodies were left hanging for days.
The recent war was not the first time Gaddafi used mercenaries to fight against his own people. These mercenary barracks were one of the first buildings to be burned during the uprising because they were a symbol of Gaddafi's long-standing use of foreign troops to put down dissent.
This marks the entrance to an underground bunker in Gaddafi's Benghazi compound. Human rights’ workers found secret rooms, cells and torture chambers within the bunker.
On Feb 17th 2008, the mayor of Benghazi, Huda Ben Amer, ordered the shooting of peaceful demonstrators on this street. They were protesting against Danish cartoons defaming the prophet Mohammad. Gaddafi had appointed Amer mayor of Benghazi twice after she showed ruthless support in the hanging of dissident Hamed al - Shuwehdi in 1984. Libyans called her Huda the executioner when she demanded Shuwedi's immediate execution on national television. Viewers were shocked as she pulled the chair from under Shuwehdi's hanging body then tugged on his legs to make sure he was dead.
Gaddafi forces fired on an unarmed funeral procession from this field in Benghazi killing four people.
On June 29th, 1996, it is estimated by Human Rights Watch, that 1270 political prisoners were massacred in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.
Witnesses including guards that were forced to shoot prisoners at gunpoint have said many of the bodies were put in lorry containers and thrown into the sea.
A sub-Saharan African religious symbol stands above an unearthed field on the Gaddafi compound in Benghazi. Underneath were found a labyrinth of tunnels, underground cells and torture chambers as well as the remains of unburied bodies.
Government troops fired from tanks on civilian residences in this outer Benghazi neighborhood.
A block of prison cells on the Gaddafi compound in Benghazi.
During the dictatorship many legal professionals tried to keep the courts independent, however, numerous cases were made here at the main courthouse in Benghazi against individuals charging them with crimes against the regime. During and after the revolution this courthouse became the epicenter of civilian resistance.
Property used by the Khamees Brigade. The brigade – headed by Gaddafi’s youngest son Khamees - was Libya’s strongest military unit. On august 23rd, 2011, guards of the brigade opened fire on over 100 people detained in a warehouse. Human Rights workers found the remains of 45 people inside.
The Revolutionary Committee Building in Tripoli. The Revolutionary Committees were set up by Gaddafi. Under his direct command the committees carried out “corruption trials” in which a defendant had no legal counsel and no right of appeal. Also under his direct command they carried out the assassination of opposition members abroad. In the late 1980s Gaddafi distanced himself from the revolutionary committees and admitted to their carrying torture and use of excessive force.
In front of the port of Benghazi. Ahmed Fouhad Fathala, an Egyptian living in Benghazi, was executed by public hanging in front of the Benghazi Port on April 6th 1977.
A pro Gaddafi loyalist was beaten to death by anti Gaddafi demonstrators at this site in Benghazi in Feb 2011.Image 15:
A prison cellblock on the Gaddafi compound in Benghazi.
Purdy Hicks Gallery London, UK. 2016.
Fotofest International, Houston Texas, USA. 2016.
Paris Photo. 2015. Purdy Hicks Gallery.
Biennal of Arab Photography in the XXIè. The Institut du Monde Arabe et Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris. 2015 - 2016.
Rick Wester Fine Art, New York, 2015.
Goeun Museum of Photography, Busan Korea. 2015.
Tate Modern, 2014 - 2015. Conflict Time Photography.
Museum Folkwang, Essen Germany. 2015.
Staatiche Kunstsammlungen, Dreseden Germany.
Paris Photo, 2014 Purdy Hicks Gallery.
Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam.
Conflict, Time, Photography, Tate Modern Publishing.
1ere Biennale des Photographies Du Monde Arabe: Histoire(s) Contemporaine(s)
Institute du Monde Arabe e Maison Européenne de la Photographie publishing. 2015
Photoworks Annual 22: Women
Photoworks Publishing. 2015
The GoEun Museum of Photography Publishing. 2015
Ojo de Pez
Still Far Away
Issue 35. December