Berlin-based Lebanese artist Rima Najdi returned to Beirut over the holidays for a visit that quickly presented her with an opportunity to make a statement that was both artistic and political after two suicide bombings hit the city in recent weeks.
Najdi, a multidisciplinary artist, thought up a new project inspired by the fatal blasts: “Madame Bomba,” an alternate persona dressed in a fake suicide belt, as a statement against the recent rise in attacks.
“We are all afraid of the same thing. We see explosives wherever we go,” Najdi told Lebanon’s LBC in an interview. “I wanted to check how people react when they see explosives,” she said of her costume, which she said was meant to be “comical” rather than “in-your-face.”
Najdi began to roam the city streets in Bomba garb after she was close enough to hear one of the bombs go off.
“Is there a bomb next to me? Am I going to die now?,” she was quoted by The Guardian as saying of the experience, which made her realize that Lebanese residents were “facing death” at any moment.
And so, along with fellow artists Maria Kassab, Sandy Chamoun, Roy Dib and Dana Dia, Najdi began walking through the streets of Beirut armed with a red dynamite costume designed by Rayya Kazoun. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translated and posted a clip of Najdi in the act.
While Najdi wasn’t allowed into tourist-heavy areas of the city and was checked by a sniffer dog outside a market, she became an urban attraction of sorts, with many pedestrians asking to pose for a photograph with her.
As she strolled along Beirut’s seaside boardwalk, Najdi received mixed responses, with some joking about her attire, some recoiling in fear and one man even saying flirtatiously, “If suicide bombers looked like you, I would love to die.”