Perched high on rooftops above Beirut, men whistle and shout as they release pigeons from lofts across the city. The beating of the bird’s wings and the ringing of their bells fills the air as the birds circle in tight formation high above the city’s skyline. With distinct cries, whistles and motions, the men orchestrate the birds to engage in the game of kash hamam – the ancient Levantine act in which the aim is to lure and then steal your neighbour’s birds.
The pigeon’s innate sense of homing makes the task of stealing your neighbour’s birds difficult. The flyers adapt and train their birds accordingly, devising traps, attractions and ways of distracting another keeper’s prize possession.
Kash Hamam causes the constant ebb and flow of birds across the city from one pigeon keeper to another. It also causes the constant ebb and flow of rumours, mistruths and stories about the pigeon keepers. As a result of this imbedded act of stealing within kash hamam, the men are slandered as thieves, liars and criminals. They are outcast from society, treated as other and blocked from participating in society both socially and politically. An ancient law in the Lebanese constitution exists that disvalues the testimony of pigeon keepers due to the beliefs that surround this act.
Both physically and politically separate from the city, the men and their lofts share an intense relationship of love that continues despite the inherent hardships that come with keeping birds. In this series of photographs, relationships with nature, beliefs, and fictions are viewed through the act of kash hamam.