Colour is as absent in Zeina Abirached’s work as shades of grey. In the course of her career as comic book artist the 32 year old graphic designer has internalised one thing completely: less is more. And yet. Her work is filled with an abundance of nuances, patterns and repetitions.Dominating her expressive graphic style those patterns have become her trademark of communication. Through them she conveys almost everything whether it be memories, affections or fear. Her comic book „A Game for Swallows“ is another great example for this talented illustrator’s very unique and memorable style.
Born in Beirut in 1981 Zeina Abirached is about to grow up in a country and society torn apart by a long-lasting civil war. In this book she focuses on one special day in 1984. And although this day starts out like any other, she has not picked it without a reason. Time is one of the most important issues in this book and so she takes her time to introduce her readers to the place of interest – her family’s house in Rue 19. For seven pages Zeina Abirached confronts us with portraits of the lonely streets of East Beirut. These streets are dominated by very special patterns recurring in every picture on every page. A number of small circles completed by a tiny dot in the center seem placed at random in the first scene. But when we have arrived in front of Abirached's house, seven pages more mature, we know for certain: bullet holes. Everywhere. Even her text is crowded with them: every time the letter „o“ is applied. In this way the shooting becomes omnipresent, even if the apartment as the actual stage of events is free from these little holes. Actually – we are not talking of a whole apartment at all, rather than its entrance hall to which the whole family Abirached has retreated for saftey’s sake.
In these minimalistic and cramped surroundings a certain kind of modest opulence sets the tone. On just a few square foot everything takes place: The entrance hall has become the center of the the siblings’ life as well as a lynchpin of social cohesion in the house. Being the safest room in the whole building the tiny hall offers security and shelter at night, when the bombs start falling and the shots ring out. Here we are introduced to the people most important in the life of three-year-old Zeina in 1984: Anhala, an amiable old lady who takes care of the two kids, Chucri, a down-to-earth sort of casual worker who just likes to help or Ernest Challita, former French teacher who tries to take the group’s mind off their critical situation by recounting the adventures of Cyrano de Bergerac – by heart. Next to a few others they are presented to us through roughly 200 pages. In her reduced style Zeina Abirached introduces her former neighbours – by telling short yet significant episodes from their past and following their extensive dialogues during wich surprisingly little words are used and facial expressions and silence prevail.