ANNABEL ELGAR

Notes From Rafat

Notes from Rafat is a series of photographs about a boy who finds a homing pigeon with a single identifying leg tag, bearing the name Rafat and a vague location. This idea is inspired in part by Elgar's own recollection and curiosity as a child of watching a pigeon fancier releasing his birds near to where she grew up.

Taking the long established history of bird breeding in the Middle East through what are known as the hamemati (Syrian pigeon collectors) as her starting point, Elgar considers how this ancient pastime has migrated from the cities and villages of Syria to the refugee camps of displaced and stateless citizens in and around Jordan and beyond. Pigeon collecting remains unabated.

The relationship between humans and pigeons in the Middle East dates back several millennia with the earliest recordings of domestication taking place some five thousand years ago.

A pigeon's instinct to return to known territories is compelling, pointing towards human attributes of empathy, nostalgia, attachment to place and the desire to belong; such abilities previously attributed to the sophisticated development of neighbourhood odour maps in what is now thought to revolve around magnetic fields. The homing pigeon is able to fly up to 700 miles uninterrupted in a single journey and find its way back: the imprint of 'site fidelity' or home developed from an early age. This pull can be strong, and birds will often attempt to return after being held in captivity for many years: an instinct shaped less by geographical markers than by the identification with a specific environment.

The series is interspersed with found images of a now disintegrating Syria sourced from a Viewmaster, a 1970s relic from Elgar's childhood, offering a carousel of otherworldliness, a fiction. The titles refer to the Latin names of pigeon breeds commonly found in Syria, Jordan and the Middle East more generally.

Notes from Rafat was made mostly during lockdown.

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Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Columbia livia

Columbia livia, 2020, 76 x 100cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Columba palumbus

Columba palumbus, 2020, 76 x 100cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Spilopelia senegalensis

Spilopelia senegalensis, 2020, 40 x 50cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Found image 01

Found image #1, viewmaster Syria, original date unknown.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Found image 05

Found image #5, viewmaster Syria, original date unknown.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Streptopelia orientalis

Streptopelia orientalis, 2020, 40 x 50cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Found image 04

Found image #4, viewmaster Syria, original date unknown.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Streptopelia roseogrisea

Streptopelia roseogrisea, 2020, 40 x 50cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Oena capensis

Oena capensis, 2020, 40 x 50cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Found image 03

Found image #3, viewmaster Syria, original date unknown.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Columba oenas

Columba oenas, 2020, 40 x 50cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Found image 02

Found image #2, viewmaster Syria, original date unknown.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Streptopelia decaocto

Streptopelia decaocto, 2020, 40 x 50cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Streptopelia semitorquata

Streptopelia semitorquata, 2020, 76 x 100cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Streptopelia turtur

Streptopelia turtur, 2020, 76 x 100cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Streptopelia senegalensis phoenicophila

Streptopelia senegalensis phoenicophila, 2020, 76 x 100cm C-type photographic print.