Finnish Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Photography Exhibition 

Like a Candle in the Dark - Brave Girls of Shatila

"When I see a person suffering and I can ease their burden, I feel like a candle in the dark," Nadira Kidah, Shatila refugee camp, Beirut, 8 June 2011.

16-18 September 1982

It has been nearly 30 years since the Sabra and Shatila massacre. During three days, people were killed without regard to their nationality, gender, or age. No one knows the exact number of victims. Estimates from different sources vary from 1,000 to 3,500. Many disappeared and their fates remain unknown.

Those who survived the massacre could not heal from their own traumatic experiences and from the loss of loved ones in peace due to the continuing Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Especially the period of the so-called War of the Camps (1985-1988) was tough for the residents of Shatila refugee camp. The camp was under siege on three separate occasions during which the residents had to find ways to survive as food and other essentials were in shortage and snipers kept watch on the supply routes. Life was tough throughout the 1980s.

Like a Candle in the Dark exhibition is honouring all the women who dedicated and continue to dedicate their lives to helping others in their community in extremely difficult circumstances. Although the exhibition concentrates on a single community in Beirut, Lebanon, whose story is topical during this year's 30th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, the message is universal: In order for a community to heal from a collective man inflicted catastrophe, it is remarkably significant for the community to activate itself. 

To put together the exhibition, 12 Palestinian women were interviewed and photographed in Beirut in June 2011.Their stories paint a picture of a community that had to find mechanisms to maintain at least some sort of normality during the tumultuous crisis of the 1980s.

The exhibition includes 12 photographic diptychs made by photojournalist Mikko Takkunen. We see portraits of the women who witnessed the cruelty of war and did humanitarian work in the Shatila refugee camp and its surrounding areas during the 1980s. Alongside the portraits, we see photographs from the camp that symbolize some of their individual experiences. 

The leaflet accompanying the exhibition tells from the point of view of the women how a refugee camp community survives the catastrophes it faces, the threat of death, and problems of everyday life during continuing war and siege. The women’s interviews were conducted and the leaflet written by psychologist, psychotherapist Kirsti Palonen.

The project has received funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the exhibition in Käytävägalleria from 1325 Network Finland. We warmly thank our supporters.

Further information: Kirsti Palonen 00 358 40 5819255,