Healing Images – Beirut’s Graffiti

A couple of people expressed interest in seeing more of Beirut’s graffiti. In my previous post on Beirut’s Street Art I posted pictures of the art around Hamra and Gemmayzeh, two central, residential districts of Beirut. In the process of researching my article on graffiti in Beirut for Hibr online I subsequently made a trip to Karantina, one of Beirut’s industrial areas out by the port, in order to photograph the graffiti art there, which is a lot bigger and more impressive, as artists go there to bomb the ugly concrete walls along the main road in and out of Beirut so that people see their work on their boring commutes to and from work from Northern Lebanon.

A skeleton road-sweeper surrounded by ravens on the side of a bullet-ridden building

I interviewed two locally based graffiti artists about their work, and found that they both saw graffiti as a way of uniting people.

German graffiti artist Steffi Peichal runs workshops on graffiti and mural-making for various NGOs, mostly working with children in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, and Syrian and Iraqi refugees. She tries to get them to express themselves through painting, encouraging them to make sketches which she then helps them to paint as big murals. It’s important work – many of the children have seen and experienced terrible violence and conflict, and drawing is a way for them to exorcise some of the terrible memories they have to live with. She told me that the first time she did a workshop, with a group of Iraqi children, she was horrified by the violence in all the images they produced. One child drew his sister’s arm lying in a pool of blood after being blown off in an explosion.

One of Steffi's group mural projects in Hamra

These days she selects a theme for the wall art, but still tries to encourage the participants to use their creativity and their imagination and paint whatever and however they like. Her workshops allow people of all ages and backgrounds to use street art as a means of expression and take part in making a work of art which is always visible and free to everybody.

The word HAMRA is spelled out in the mural

Here are some pictures from one of Steffi’s projects working with Palestinian children in Sidon, in the south of Lebanon (click on the images to enlarge them)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also spoke with graffiti artist Phat2, a young Lebanese artist who says he uses graffiti as “a territorial retaliation against political parties and religious sectarianism.”

During the Civil War and even to some extent these days, the majority of graffiti around Beirut consists of political stencils, which divide the city up into districts and factions along religious and political lines. Phat2’s tag can be seen all over Beirut and other Lebanese cities because as he explained to me, it’s not his real name, it represents the Lebanese people as one united group trying to take back the country from politicians. A lot of his work can be seen in Karantina, as he goes out at night to paint under cover of darkness, and Karantina is the perfect place: deserted at night it is full of empty, inviting walls which are easily visible from the highway.

One of Phat2’s recent pieces, in collaboration with other local graffiti artists, is “Absorbing Creative Karma,” a huge mural which stretches over 30 metres along the wall beside one of Lebanon’s busiest highways.

The words along the top read “Last chance to evacuate planet earth before it is recycled”

To read more about graffiti’s role in uniting the Lebanese people and hear more from Steffi Peichal and Phat2 see my article on hibr.me.

More of Phat2’s work in Karantina:

Sea creatures inspired by one of Beirut's long-standing graffiti artists "Physh"

002 - "You were good kid, real good, but as long as I'm around..."

More images of street art in Karantina:

Oras, another Beirut based calligrapher

R. E. S. P. E. C. T.

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26 thoughts on “Healing Images – Beirut’s Graffiti

  1. Great post! It is so interesting to read about the unfkuences behind street art. I have posted on it myself though living in brooklyn, it comes from a similar yet different place. Thx!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. I didn’t know mucn about graffiti before moving to Lebanon, but the more I learn the more interesting I find it. Will check out your post about Brooklyn – it would be interesting to see how different the themes are in the USA. Thanks for commenting!

    • That’s a very good point – some of the most beautiful old buildings in Beirut haven’t been restored since the war, and their walls tell stories of violence with no need for graffiti.

  2. It is so fascinating to see this city and country beyond the old “nightly news” stories of war and destruction. Thank you for letting us see more than the political and ideological wars of this region.

    • Thanks jm. It is so sad that Lebanon is associated with war first and foremost for most people. It’s certainly what I thought of when I came here for the first time, but having realised how much more there is to Lebanon than conflict I am enjoying writing about it. I hope that some poeple will be encouraged to visit it themselves – it’s such a beautiful country with so much to offer.

  3. What an interesting article!! I’m actually surprised this one didn’t make pressed. Great pictures as well – thank you for sharing and I look forward to reading more! :)

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it – and I wish you were the one choosing the pressed blogs…
      I love your gravatar image, it’s amazing. Looking forwards to seeing more from you too.

  4. Pingback: Fall Seven Times and Stand Up Eight | Bringing You Beirut

  5. In street art, you hear the voice of the people, often marginalized people. This kind of art is incredibly personal and political, temporary and contemporary; all of which makes it beautiful in my eyes. Great work.

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