Our long time contributor Benas Gerdziunas spent six months in Lebanon during the winter of 2017 - 2018 chronicling Lebanese culture. Featured here is Benas' photo essay “Chasing Druze Reincarnations on Mount Lebanon” a poignant exploration of the minority Druze population in Lebanon's “unwavering belief in reincarnation.” During Benas' time in Lebanon, he studied Druze history and religion, at least as much is available to the public, to provide background and context for this photo essay.
“Nibal remembers as many others do; he remembers his violent death in Lebanon’s 15-year long civil war. Just three years old, Nibal guided his family to the ‘previous’ home on Mount Lebanon. Inside, he knew the names and stories of each person in his ‘old family.’ “He remembers,” Nibal’s friends introduced him. The two ominous words echoed from mouth to mouth among the Druze, without the heavy weight of what to some others may seem like antiquated spiritual hearsay. Belief in reincarnation, or ‘Taqamus’ in Arabic - loosely translated as ‘wearing another shirt’ - forms a big part of the Druze minority in Lebanon. Historically, the Druze have escaped persecution in the fortress-like terrain on Mount Lebanon since they split from Islam in the 11th century.”
Benas, originally from Lithuania, is a freelance photojournalist previously reporting from the EU, the Balkans, Belarus, the Middle East and Ukraine. He is a contributor to Lithuania’s national broadcaster (LRT), and international outlets such as Al Jazeera, DW, Politico, The Independent, and Vice News.
Check out some of Benas's other photo essays on Transterra Media: Tracing Beirut's Faultlines, a photo essay focusing on Beirut's post-conflict urban landscape. Or the Ghostly Remains of the Tsar’s European Army: a photos story about the Russian fortress in the town of Kaunas, Lithuania which fell within a week during the First World War killing 20,000 soldiers. During the Second World War, this same fortress was the site of a mass execution of 30,000 Lithuanian Jews.