Beirut Ma Betmout

On August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port exploded; the entire city, and much of the country, felt the thud, heard the sirens and saw the blood. Gemmayze, Achrafieh and Mar Mikhael were particularly hard hit. These areas are, or were, home to many artists and their studios, independent bookshops, coffee shops, small bars and restaurants where creatives would gather, unwind and exchange ideas.

 

Several recurring themes emerged when speaking with the artists in this sale; many had spent years outside of Lebanon, and upon their return, sought to position themselves within the cultural, social and historical fabric of Lebanon. Nostalgia also came up a few times; a longing, or critical investigation into the glamorous Lebanon of the 60s and early 70s, when Beirut was dubbed ‘The Paris of the Middle East.’ Some referenced fatigue; they are heartbroken and tired, they say, of a life of instability. Most poignantly though, all the artists I spoke with shared their love for Lebanon.

 

The Lebanese people are warm and creative; you feel it when you walk around Beirut. When a Lebanese person hosts you, they do so generously; when they cook, they cook with love; when they decorate, or dress, weave, sew, stitch, paint, glaze, draw, dance, laugh, fight, they do so genuinely and creatively. I have never lived in Lebanon, so it took me time to develop my own relationship with this special country; the connection I feel today was born from my experiences of Beirut’s rich, warm and diverse art and culture. To preserve the unique Lebanese spirit, it is important to celebrate and promote local cultural
production.

 

Curated by Saria Sakka
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