The Beauty, the Gazelle, and I

"Taha Krewi"

The sculpture of the beauty and the gazelle, known as "Ghazala" or "Ghazala Square," became a landmark of the capital, Tripoli, and a symbol of Libya. The brilliant and prolific Italian artist Angelo Vanetti had made two versions of the same sculpture, and named them "The Fountain of Life." The first iteration graced Tripoli in 1932, while the second was placed in an Italian square. In Tripoli, the original title was quickly replaced by "The Beauty and the Gazelle," indicating the beautiful Libya, the land of oases and gazelles. 

For many decades, the people of Tripoli saw the Beauty and the Gazelle everytime they crossed Ghazala Square. Many Libyans, young and old, made sure to visit this landmark whenever they made the trip to Tripoli. 

I don't remember when I first encountered the Beauty and the Gazelle, but it was definitely before I learned to walk or speak–even before I learned my own name. Everyone who lived in Tripoli, especially in the center of the city, knew the sculpture by heart. I can’t tell you how many times I visited the sculpture with my parents, or how many pictures I took with the Beauty and the Gazelle. In this photo, I had just turned two years old. 

During my childhood, I visited the square frequently. Back then, I didn't quite grasp our attachment to this place and this sculpture. I knew it had something to do with the sculpture's beauty and originality, and the serenity its visitors experienced as they sat by the surrounding water fountain. Among efforts to develop and beautify the city at that time, The Beauty and the Gazelle were in good hands.  

As I grew up, the square became a meeting point; my friends, colleagues and I relished the vibrant atmosphere of the surrounding coffee shops, where you could easily spot intellectuals, writers, poets, and artists. The landmark became part of my identity; the Beauty and the Gazelle embodied Tripoli’s present and past, extending to before its independence. At the same time, the square kept a record of my memories and personal milestones.

 

The statue of the naked beauty with the gazelle and the water jar remained in Tripoli throughout the colonial era, after World War II, independence and the monarchy, then Gaddafi's era in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and into the 2000s. Never did the Libyans mind the beauty's nudity, until February 2011–the beginning of a slew of attempts to erase the beauty and the gazelle from our memories. In 2012, someone draped the statue with fabric and ropes, illustrating the move towards its shrouding and suppression. Then on August 27, 2014, someone fired an RPG through the beauty's stomach, also breaking one of the gazelle's legs. And on November 4 of the same year, an unidentified group of people managed to remove the statue from its original location, and to this day, its whereabouts are unknown. 

Eight years have passed since the beauty and the gazelle have gone missing, but the square still holds the same name. The landmark will always be forged in our minds; it will never be erased from our memories, our history, or from our photos.

Born in Tripoli, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. He is a journalist, photographer, journalism trainer, and media professional, as well as an artist specializing in visual arts.

Taha Krewi
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