Lebanon News

Artists showcase their revolutionary art

BEIRUT: As Lebanon’s nationwide protests reach their 109th day, hundreds of people took to the streets of Downtown Beirut to showcase works of revolutionary art. Artists erected a long line of stands on Martyrs’ Square, where they created a variety of new paintings, sculptures and installations. Music played loudly, while balloons flew in the air and crowds gathered to view the creativity on display.

The artists and onlookers came together to send a message that the protests, which began on Oct. 17, 2019, are far from over. Some carved wood into human forms, while others painted portraits and abstract pictures to communicate the concerns of the protest movement.

Roula Kazan, an art teacher, showed a painting of children running down a path with Lebanese flags, a cedar tree and white birds in the sky. She described it as an appeal to all of Lebanon’s youth to be hopeful and active in the creation of a better future.

“I came from outside Beirut to showcase my art, because with my painting, I am trying to convey a positive message of hope,” Kazan said. “The uprisings have not finished and will not end until [those in power] decide to listen to us.”

Many of the artists expressed similar sentiments.

“I want to bring Lebanese people together and show the elites that we are one hand,” artist Rima Awwan said. “These paintings all represent peace in Lebanon - one with no sects and no division, and until that demand is met, we will use all means to convey it.”

Others said that art is a language spoken by many people, and so can be used to carry out important conversations in society.

“Art and paintings are a message and not just something you do for fun,” interior designer Jad Saintbai said. “People will always have language barriers and barriers in their beliefs, but that’s not the case with what we’re doing today.”

Saintbai’s paintings are easy to relate to and depict a range of everyday people, from little girls selling water on the street to members of the Army patrolling demonstrations. “Revolutions are based on art because everyone can understand it,” he said.

Lebanese took to the streets since Oct. 17 in a call for a new ruling class and the end of corruption and the squandering of public money. The protests prompted former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign, bringing down the whole Cabinet with him. Prime Minister Hassan Diab was then designated as a premier and formed his government last month despite popular rejection.

Hundreds returned to the streets Saturday, in a bid to show the political elite that the nationwide anti-government protest movement is not over.

“Just because we aren’t hundreds of thousands every single day does not mean that we are done and have accepted the situation,” one man said to television reporters in the Ashrafieh district of Beirut.

Marches were organized in multiple areas of Beirut, including Hamra and Corniche al-Nahr, and are set to converge in Riad al-Solh Square, in the city’s Downtown district.

“[Then] we will release [a] statement on behalf of all the protesters with our stance,” the man added.

Another man in Ashrafieh said, “There is a war today between one side that wants Lebanon and the other that doesn’t. We are the side that will win.”

More protests were organized in the northern city of Tripoli.

Separately, earlier Sunday, scores of protesters gathered near the U.S. Embassy in Awkar to show their anger at President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

Tensions rose between protesters and Internal Security Forces, as some members of the crowd hurled stones at security personnel.

According to local TV channel Al Jadeed, security forces used pepper spray on protesters, injuring six as a result.

The road leading to the embassy, which was filled with protesters waving Palestinian flags, was lined with barbed wire and metal barriers, which some protesters tried to remove at one point. The reporter and cameraman of the Lebanese broadcaster MTV were attacked by one person, who protesters said did not represent them.

Later Sunday, a small group of protesters briefly blocked the main south Lebanon highway at the town of Khaldeh by stretching a giant Palestinian flag across the road.

The plan, referred to by the Trump administration as the “deal of the century,” was unveiled Tuesday and quickly denounced by countries across the Arab world, including Lebanon.

Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have organized strikes, marches and protests against it.

Many aspects of the plan have enraged Palestinians, including that fact that it does not grant refugees the right to return to their lands.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 03, 2020, on page 2.

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