Category Archives: Art

The Memorial: An Urban Act To Draw Attention To The 17,000+ Missing And Disappeared In Lebanon

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The Lebanese Civil War lasted 15 years from 1975 to 1990, killing more than 150,000 people and leaving some 17,000 missing. The government has done nothing to clarify the fate of the disappeared and missing people and their families are still waiting and fighting to learn of their loved ones’ fate.

We’ve already had an ACT to support these families, as well as movies and initiatives to support their cause, but nothing comes close to the “urban memorial” that Domaine Public Architects are proposing. I first read about the memorial in the DailyStar and asked the Domaine Public guys to provide me with further info and pictures regarding their project and it’s a pretty amazing one.

The urban memorial constitutes Phase 1 of a larger plan to revitalize the Beirut Waterfront by setting up The Memorial at first, followed by a cultural art park, a lighthouse square, a viewing platform and a sea park in the last phase. I will only discuss The Memorial for now until I have further information on the other phases.

The Memorial is urban space that will act as a platform to help the families of thousands of missing persons keep their cause visible and alive, and to also keep the faith that one day the fate of their beloved ones is revealed. Its aim as well is to help Lebanese in dealing with memories of their not too distant past and contribute to national reconciliation.

The Memorial will be set up on Beirut’s Corniche, a neutral public space that is embraced by Lebanese of various sects, economic background and political affiliations, and will expand into three sub spaces:
The Contemplation Room, which opens to the sea and the sky, slightly curving downwards to create a direct connection to the sea and the natural sunset.

The Collectibles Room, where families can place objects belonging to their loved ones.

The Message Room, a room for projection, movies and messages that will act as an interactive communication space within the memorial.

The memorial is meant to keep the cause of the concerned families alive as it display images of those missing on a curved glass wall. Whenever the fate of that person is revealed, his image is removed from the glass. The emptiness is an act of closure while the remaining images allude to the work left to be accomplished.

I honestly believe it’s a very important project, and the location they’ve chosen is ideal as it’s highly frequently especially by young people who will have a glimpse of the suffering that these families are still going through and realized the ugliness and brutality of war. I hope that it will be implemented one day, and I would love to see The Museum of Civilizations come to life as well one day.

Here are some more pictures of the project:

The memorial lifts 50cm above the sidewalk to create an 85 meters long public bench. It hence becomes a bench of unity, a bench that brings people of different beliefs, confessions and political ideas to sit side by side united and contemplate on their shared history and ultimately the future that binds them. as the bench lifts, it allows the sunlight of the setting sun to filter into the memorial space below as a spiritual gesture. The bench is etched creating circular recesses that collect rainwater. As the Beirut sun emerges from behind the clouds, the bench dries up and a series of circular pockets retain the rain, a succession of miniature water pools is what remains.

Art Prevails Where Our Government Failed: MARCH Lebanon Uniting Bab el Tebbeneh & Jabal Mohsen In A Beautiful Play

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Whenever clashes renew between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, all the TVs rush to cover the fights, interview locals and politicians and host talk shows to discuss the clashes and their repercussions, but no one ever bothered investigating the roots of these clashes which date back to the 1970s and the reason why there’s so much hatred between these two communities. All the media is too busy hosting stupid and pointless talk shows and inviting clueless people to analyze the situation, while innocent young men and women from Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tebbaneh are dying because of these same rotten politicians and so-called religions leaders.

These two communities don’t hate each other, they’re just paying the price of poverty and corruption, and we’ve seen how things got back to normal in no time a year ago once a political agreement was reached and the heads of armed gangs were “allowed to run away”, even though these people should have been arrested in my opinion. We are all glad that violence has stopped between the residents of the two neightbourhoods, at least for now, but we need initiatives to bring these people together, to break these sectarian lines set by politicians and to unite young men and women from both sides and this is what MARCH Lebanon did.

MARCH brought together for the first time in recent history “young men and women from the opposite sides of the front line to create and prepare for a comedy play inspired by their lives”. The same people who were engaged in street violence, sat down, talk to each other and “created a play that highlights their new-found friendships risen from the ashes of years of fear and intolerance towards each other”, a play that proved to be “a lesson in citizenship, friendship and tolerance and in the power of art”, as stated by Joumana Haddad.

Love and war on a rooftop is a major achievement for MARCH Lebanon and an inspiring story for all of us Lebanese. It shows that we can break barriers between different sects and communities in the easiest way possible, and that these divisions are only in our heads. We need more initiatives to bring the young generations together, to show them that our differences should only make us better and stronger, and that unity is so easily achievable by the easiest of ways. Even if that’s just a play, the mere fact that these young people worked hand in hand to make this play happen has already changed the perception they have of each other and helped break many barriers.

Thumbs up to MARCH Lebanon, to Lucien Bou Rjeily who wrote and directed the play, and to these inspiring young actors from Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tebbenah. For those who missed the play, there’s a documentary that is coming out soon and I’ll definitely be sharing it on the blog.

PS: All pictures from MARCH Lebanon

[YouTube]

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A Huge And Impressive Sabah Mural In Hamra – By Yazan Halwani

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A beautiful work by the super-talented graffiti/street artist Yazan Halwani. I love the colors and the location that he chose as it’s an iconic building that is located at the heart of Hamra.

Here’s what Yazan had to say about it:

I painted the legendary Sabah on one of the largest murals in Beirut to immortalize the woman that was loved by all and was able to challenge the rules of society. She was not only an “icon”… I think we need to take Sabah’s drive in modern society, break taboos when need be and not be held by norms.

This mural was painted on an iconic building of Beirut pre-war era, the “Heart Of Hamra” is a building that earns its name: Before the Civil War it hosted the legendary Horseshoe Café, a literary café where Nizar Qabbani, Paul Guiragossian, and many Arab artists and intellectuals used to sit. After the war, Hamra started slowly recovering but was never able to become the Arab cultural hub it once was, this mural is an attempt to bring back that era.

Thanks to the people that made this huge mural possible: Ahla Fawda , Colortek Kassaa for providing the best paint, the Assaf family for donating their building, my team (Jeff, Joude, Ed, Rayan, Nadia and Selma)!

Ashekman also completed a beautiful tribute to the Sabbou7a in Achrafieh a week ago.

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A Huge Graffiti Tribute To The Lebanese Diva #Sabah (Sabbou7a) By ASHEKMAN

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Ashekman brothers have been working for the past couple of days on a huge graffiti mural as a tribute to the legendary Lebanese singer Sabah (also known as Sabbou7a). The huge mural was completed yesterday and is set up facing the Grandizer one in Achrafieh on the way up to Sassine before ABC Mall.

The Ashekman brothers have already done tributes to Feyrouz and Wadih El Safi and recently repainted their “To Be Free Or Not” mural in Achrafieh after it was removed by mistake by Beirut’s municipality.

Thumbs up to Ashekman and every talented Lebanese graffiti artists (Ali Rafei and Yazan Halwani to name few) that are using their talent to cover and replace the city’s ugly political slogans with beautiful graffiti murals and powerful drawings.

sab77 Sketch of the final outcome

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Go Watch Venus Play By Jacques Maroun (Rated 18+)

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venus1 Picture via Charbel Saadeh

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of plays and the ones I’ve seen in Lebanon so far were truly disappointing, but I finally managed to convince a group of friends to join me in watching Venus after repeatedly hearing positive feedback about it and I’m glad I did! Venus is an absolutely brilliant play and it was extended for 10 more days due to an overwhelming popular demand.

Here’s my review, and please bare with me as it’s the first time I review a play:

The Lebanese adaptation by Lina Khoury and Grabriel Yammine of David Ives’ broadway success “Venus in Fur” – the play is in colloquial Lebanese Arabic – turned out to be a hit under the direction of Jacques Maroun. Rita Hayek and Badih Abou Chakra – the only two actors in the play – mesmerized the audience with their impeccable acting. Although some conservative minds might be offended by the audacity of the actors and their indecent exposure, this is what exactly goes to show that they offered themselves unconditionally. The play itself includes direct references to the novel “Venus in Furs” by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Just like the term sadism was coined after the notorious Marquis de Sade, the term masochism was named after Sacher-Masoch. Although the theme is not superficial, the play is filled with humor which provoked many bursts of laughter by the audience throughout the one hour and a half performance.

If you’re open minded and you would like to try to understand the psychological need of being dominated or dominating – or even dominating while acting like you are dominated –, then you should definitely go watch this play.‎ You will definitely enjoy watching reality and fantasy as they intertwine. On a last note, I want to applaud Jacques Maroun and everyone who took part in this play for being brave enough to come up with such a play in Lebanon, and for placing the woman in a dominant power role in an attempt to defy society’s gender stereotypes.

Venus is showing from Thursday May 7th 2015 to Sunday May 17th 2015 at Babel theater. You can buy tickets on [Virgin Ticketing Box Office].

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Rating: 4/5

To Be Free Or Not To Be: MARCH & ASHEKMAN’s Mural Is Back!

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Update: Here’s the latest and final picture of the mural

ASHEKMAN and MARCH repainted their “To Be Free Or Not” mural in Achrafieh after it was removed by mistake by Beirut’s municipality a couple of weeks ago. I passed by yesterday around 6pm and spotted Omar putting the final touches.

It’s good to hear that Beirut’s municipality took a positive stance concerning this mural and I hope they preserve other decent art works and encourage more talented artists like ASHEKMAN to spread positive messages across the city’s walls.

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Benedicte & Raja Mubarak – Salvaging Lebanon’s Disappearing Architectural Heritage

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Lebanon’s architectural heritage is slowly disappearing and Beirut is quickly losing its traditional character as old houses, beautiful villas and Ottoman-style mansions are increasingly being destroyed and replaced with modern skyscrapers. Activists have been campaigning for years to preserve some of that heritage but time is not on their side as historical buildings are not being preserved by the authorities and will become beyond repair at some point.

Having said that, French Designer Benedicte de Vanssay de Blavous Moubarak and her husband Raja moved to Beirut few years ago and became immediately drawn to the unique style of traditional Levantine houses. In an attempt to salvage whatever is left of Lebanon’s disappearing architectural heritage, they began collecting discarded old wrought iron balustrades, railings and window frames from all over Lebanon and turning them into design pieces.

The couple created in 2006 2b design with the mission of “restoring the unseen beauty of the broken” and the name Beyt (House/Home in Hebrew and Arabic) was chosen as the flagship brand name. Their creations are now found in several countries and are sold through different retailers. Moreover, the company hires people with disabilities as well as those marginalized from society in order to transform their lives as well.

Of course the ideal would be to preserve these houses and restore them but unfortunately there are no serious plans to do so and there are many obstacles on the way. BBC made a nice report on 2b design which you can watch [Here]. You can also check out their [website] for further information.

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Beirut Governor Ziad Chebib Admits Mistake, ASHEKMAN’s Graffiti To Be Repainted

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A week ago, Beirut’s municipality removed the beautiful Tabaris mural that was set up by MARCH and ASHEKMAN as part of the campaign to remove “all political slogans” from Beirut. Knowing that ASHEKMAN and March NGO were authorized to draw this graffiti in the first place, they raised the matter to Beirut’s governor Ziad Chebib who admitted that they shouldn’t have erased the graffiti and invited them to meet and get a new permit.

This is great news and I think the governor should keep all beautiful graffiti not just this one, specially ASHEKMAN‘s and Yazan‘s works.

Many thanks to Zaven for raising this important issue on his TV show.

[YouTube]

ASHEKMAN: Covering And Replacing Ugly Political Slogans With Beautiful Graffiti Murals

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The highly talented ASHEKMAN brothers have been covering the ugly political slogans and stencils from Beirut’s walls way before the Ministry of Interior decided to do so, and they’ve been sending out positive messages through their amazing graffiti murals, Arabic calligraphy, as well as Arabic rap music and street wear.

For those of you who are not familiar with ASHEKMAN, it was established in 2001 by identical twin brothers Mohamed & Omar Kabbani. Recently, Beirut’s municipality decided to remove their “To Be Free Or Not” mural in Achrafieh instead of encouraging and sponsoring young Lebanese artists to remove the ugliness from the city’s walls and replace them with beautiful artwork.

ASHEKMAN are not planning to slowdown anytime soon and have many upcoming murals to paint in Beirut, so stay tuned!

Here are five of my favorite ASHEKMAN murals:

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