"You must remember it is a story": High schoolers at the ICA

by Humanities teacher Sarah Parker Geller

In Hostage: The Bachar Tapes, a video presentation included in the Walid Raad exhibit at the Institute for Contemporary Art, a character named Souheil Bachar provides testimony about his time in captivity during the Lebanese Civil War. In the midst of harrowing descriptions of his experiences, he comments, “Yes, it is horrible what happened to us, but you must remember it is a story, so it is familiar to you.” This encapsulates a major theme in Raad’s work: the stories that we tell, create, and remember help to define our lives and unite us as human beings.

Meridian’s high school students, having studied the impact of story in the human experience, travelled to the ICA to view the Raad exhibit. Raad’s work blurs the lines between fact and fiction, another theme that is often covered in our Humanities courses in all divisions. The ninth and tenth graders in American Historiography are currently investigating the question “Is art history?” Juniors are studying current and historical events in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories. While reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, they explore the ways that story affects how we grapple with conflict. This is one of my favorite parts about our Humanities curriculum: we find so many ways to incorporate broad themes, which helps our students make connections from between projects, classes, and even years.

Raad once said, “The story one tells oneself and that captures one’s attention and belief may have nothing to do with what happened in the past, but that’s the story that seems to matter in the present and for the future.” Our Humanities courses require our students to constantly question official narratives. Who writes the history we read? Who are the voices that we hear? How is history constructed? The Raad exhibit was one more opportunity for our students to engage with these essential questions.