ANNABEL ELGAR

Notes From Rafat

Notes from Rafat is an imagined narrative about a boy who finds a homing pigeon with a single identifying leg tag, bearing the name Rafat and a vague location.

Taking the long established history of bird breeding and flying in the Middle East through what are known as the hamemati (Syrian pigeon collectors) as its starting point, Elgar's story considers how this ancient pastime has migrated from the cities and villages of Syria to the refugee camps of displaced and stateless citizens dotted in and around Jordan and beyond. Collecting pigeons has flourished, the hamemati participating directly in their birds' uninhibited freedom.

This evolving relationship between humans and pigeons dates back several millennia in the Middle East: 57,000 pigeons were sacrificed during the reign of Ramesses II in the 12th century BC, whilst the earliest recordings of domesticating birds took place in Egypt around 3000 BC.

A pigeon's instinct to return to known territories is compelling, pointing towards human attributes of empathy, nostalgia, attachment to place (and therefore loss) and a 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's ability to fly up to 700 miles uninterrupted over vast distances in a single journey and find its way home is fascinating; the imprint of home or 'site fidelity' honed from an early age, whilst this has less to do with geographical markers than an identification with a specific environment. The pull can be strong, and birds will often attempt to return after being held in captivity for many years.

The series is interspersed with found images of a now disintegrating Syria sourced from a Viewmaster, a 1970s childhood relic, as the boy tries to recreate an idea of 'home' for the bird, questioning where this lies and the desire to return. 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. Making work within this context brought into question the very nature of what home means.

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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, 40 x 50cm C-type photographic print.

Annabel Elgar,  Notes from Rafat, Streptopelia senegalensis phoenicophila

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