Artists show­case their rev­o­lu­tion­ary art

Hun­dreds come to­gether to send mes­sage that protests are far from over

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Sabine Ezzed­dine and Houshig Kay­makamian

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 antigov­ern­ment 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 woman paints on a wall in Mar­tyrs Square in Beirut.

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