Come, Take a Look at This Picture

"Reda Bin Musa"

Every photograph represents a moment in time. A green, ripe moment. In the large courtyard of the house in the old city in western Tripoli, a child stands on a black and white checkered floor, wrapped in a simple dress with gray and black stripes–inherited from his sister–and gazes spontaneously into the peculiar lens that documents his presence.

A magical device showers him with the starlike glow of the flash in the summer daylight. He stands as one with his white cat, who looks confused, perhaps asking herself: "Why is my friend standing by himself, when all I want is to be near him? Why did he suddenly stop playing, I wonder, which is very unlike him?" Perhaps she realizes that the person behind the camera is trying to get her to exit the frame, blind to the beauty that her presence contributes to the composition. Perhaps she expects to be given some food. Or perhaps she is scanning the floor for intruders, unwelcome in an old house ravaged by humidity. Capturing them could secure her place in this house, not just in this photograph. The cat, Mao, is a main pillar of the house. She is expected to perform her role as steadfastly as the rest of the inhabitants, so that she may become a lush branch of the family, a beloved friend to their child, and finally, to earn her place in the frame, and in the family’s history.

Take a look at the child, leaning against a time-worn wall imprinted with traces of bygone times. The wall has patiently accompanied generation after generation; its founding bricks were laid in the aftermath of the great exodus to Tajoura, which came as a result of a heinous attack by pirates disguised as religious fanatics. The wall continued to grow as the country emerged from the womb to declare its independence. Poor and destitute, it had nothing to offer but loaves of bread and rags for the children, who learned the language of dreams in hopes for an imminent renaissance.

 

As noted on its back, this photograph was taken in 1954, by the young journalist Fadel Al-Masoudi. As he captured this fleeting moment, Al-Masoudi built a vocabulary of love for every man born free, only to struggle and bleed sweat as he fought the embers of the long arduous years in the life of a society taking its first steps. His photograph captures a moment from a lifetime that has flown on the wings of dreams for a new city and a new world with more justice, beauty, and joy. 

Take your time as you look at the photograph. And may time slow down for you too, enough for it to regain its serenity, innocence and simplicity. The embers of this moment of undying love still pervade my mind; along with lasting features, marks and emotions that won’t fade. This passion has been born with us, and we learned to walk as it flagrantly bloomed and chanted. In the hopeful gaze of a child and his cat, we revisit our desires for a horizon expanding towards freedom, gradually gaining the colors of a rainbow. 

Come, look: join the child inside me, and the child and the cat in the picture. Come, for innocence, simplicity, beauty, and everything we thought we lost remains alive within us–here and now.

Born in Tripoli, he is a writer and political activist. He is a founding member and the president of the General Assembly of the Libyan Society for Arts and Literature in Tripoli.

Reda Bin Musa
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