In 1984, Nassib El Solh my father, opened a bakery. A secular bakery established in the middle of a sectarian civil war by a man known to be “from the other side”.
As a continuity of a message and devotion his mother started since 1959 because her son -my uncl, was born with mental illness, and to support the project of his mother, my father wanted to create jobs for people with disabilities, mental and physical, who usually find themselves totally marginalized during the war.
The bakery was set inside a glass structure resembling the one where the bakery was set in Kassel, during Documenta 14, where I first re-made the bakery as a contribution to Documenta 14. The original bakery was actually surrounded by plexi-glass, this way, the customers could see the work being done, and be sure of the cleanliness. Still, from 1984 till 1988, no one from town wanted to buy bread from the bakery: first it was made by people “from the other side”, and then all its workers were "not clean", "handicapped and dirty" as the people called them.
So the bakery looked for other customers, and started distributing bread to orphanages, retirement homes, and jails or mental asylums in the vicinity.
In 1989, the war escalated. The whole region was under siege. For nine consecutive months, there was no water, no electricity and no flour.
Because the bakery was branded as a welfare and non-profit institution, Nassib was able to obtain from Al Inaash Al Ijtimaii some flour, a luxury by all standards in view of the situation. Every day, at the bakery, we “sorted the wheat from the chaff” in order to bake with it. Everyone in the region had two options: either dying from hunger, or buying the bread from the bakery of the Institute which was established by my grandmother.
A few days after the beginning of the siege, people started rushing to the bakery, queuing for hours in order to get their bread. Little by little, the bakery started to look like a real one.
Nassib is my father and I was a child. My school at that time being anyway closed during these times of exception, I worked in the bakery to help out. We used to wake up at 5 in the morning, and my job was to fill 12 bread loafs in each bag. A very mechanical gesture, yet much more exciting for a child like myself than the classroom discipline.
The bakery became very famous in the area, and thus, a good target for the military groups “from the other side”. A few weeks after this success, the bakery was bombed and burned to the last bit.
In Kassel, and during Documenta 14, for a period of two weeks, I invited Miss Mona El Dor, known as Um Ali, and her son Ali Suleiman to lead the traditional baking act. We baked Saj Manakeesh. My family members joined, including my father Nassib, as well as her family members who were already in Germany as new or old immigrants and refugees. We formed a growing team and we sold the Manakeesh at a symbolic price.
The profits of the bakery were modest, but we could at least re-distribute them to non-for profit associations in Athens, in Lebanon and in the USA, to associations who support refugees. This is part of a cycle that belongs to my work “I Strongly Believe In Our Right To Be Frivolous”.
The Manouché is a Levantine pizza, topped with cheese or thyme, or Kechk, it is typical in Lebanon, in Syria and in Palestine. People usually eat the Manouché for breakfast. It is a pizza everyone can afford, poor and rich, and is highly nutricious.
This project wouldn't have been realized without the support of Documenta 14, the D 14 technical team, and specially Hendrik Folkerts, Ayse Gulek, Tamim Ahmad (previous owner fo the Syrian Kebab restaurant in Kassel), Fanny Hauser, Rana Matloub, Um Ali and her family members, my father Nassib and my family members, all of the D14 visitors who particiapated and bought our Manouché on a daily basis, as well as Kassel old and new inhabitants.