Volvos of Lebanon: Stories of Refugees, Resilience and Reliable Cars


Exhibit Shares New Perspective on Refugee Crisis and Swedish Automobiles

Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in the spring of 2011, Lebanon has been on the front lines of the Middle East refugee crisis with over 1 million people entering the country seeking asylum. Today, one in four people living in Lebanon has been displaced from Syria, Iraq or Palestine.

In May 2016, a group from Mennonite Central Committee, a faith-based relief and humanitarian aid organization, travelled to Lebanon to learn more about the organization’s response in the region. Scott Campbell, MCC BC’s Advancement Director, and a Volvo enthusiast, starting snapping images of the surprisingly numerous Volvos he saw while travelling the country.

“I found these cars’ presence in Lebanon a bit jarring. Volvos are typically Western vehicles known for their safety features. They seem out of place in this Eastern country emerging from internal conflicts and a neighbour to countries deeply scarred by ongoing fighting. Yet these cars are resilient. They persist, sometimes damaged, but seemingly miraculously. For me, these cars play a kind of stand-in role for their owners. Bombarded by images of people in need, I see these vehicles as proxies for people whose stories parallel the lives lived in and through these cars.”

November 22-December 10, The Fort Gallery will host Campbell’s exhibit titled Volvos of Lebanon: Stories of Refugees, Resilience, and Reliable Cars. The exhibit features a series of large format images that have been paired with stories that Campbell published online daily during his travels in Lebanon.

From a car featured in front of ancient Roman ruins in the century old city of Baalbek, to its boxy doppelganger lost in the midst of a busy neighborhood in Sidon crowded with people who have fled conflict in their home countries, to a family speeding down a highway through the capital Beirut, each Volvo reminds the viewer that though the crisis is large and complicated it impacts individuals and families, not unlike us, whose lives have been forever impacted by conflicts not of their own making.