It was on August 4, 2020, at 6pm, that Lebanon faced one of the largest natural disasters ever known in the world. When a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut, the capital, exploded, more than 218 deaths and 7000 injuries have been caused, leaving an estimated 300 000 people homeless. One year later, the citizens of the country refuse to be defeated and beyond the damages left by the explosion, want to give through art, messages of hope and strength.
Beautiful works of art have been displayed in the streets of Beirut and in the Lebanese art scene: graffiti, statues, portraits, paintings, etc. Indeed, many artists wanted to show that the resilience and mental strength, which the Lebanese have always shown in a country where the economy and politics are unstable, should continue to be present in all the hearts of the Lebanese and help them surpass depression. In the streets of Beirut, we can observe today many graffiti marking messages of love and hope and many portraits. The American artist Brady Black, residing in Lebanon since 2015, created 9 months after the explosion, a street art gallery of portraits drawn on the walls of Beirut, in the Downtown. Entitled #TheyMatter, he drew a portrait of each person who left his life in the explosion in a Mona Lisa style, where you can see the innocence through their eyes, with only their first name tagged.
Other forms of art can be seen such as the one made by Hayat Nazer, a Lebanese artist, who wanted to convert her grief into a work of art and created a statue of iron and glass belonging to the debris of the explosion. The statue features a woman holding the Lebanese flag in her hand and wearing a broken watch, showing the time 06:08, the time of the explosion. The Statue represents a message of recovering and rebirth just like the Phoenix, who regenerates from the ashes.
In addition to that, many galleries in Lebanon which have been destroyed, have thankfully been reopening their doors despite the circumstances and organized exhibitions focused on a message of courage and hope, following the explosion. The Saleh Barakat Gallery, for example, organized an exhibition named after the Freddie Mercury song “The show must go on”, in which beautiful paintings have been displayed as a fight against depression. “In times such as these, when our lives have been overtaken by daily concerns, “The Show Must Go On” is a testament to the need for brief moments of respite, as well as big dreams for the future, which perhaps only art can offer,” Barakat stated.
Despite its hard times, Lebanon wants to keep its art scene alive and uses art to remind all citizens and art lovers that tomorrow is certain with courage and hope. It may take much more than one year, but Lebanon will for sure recover and the art scene of the country will always be a platform to encourage citizens to never give up their dreams and the hope of their future.
Nadine Fardon is from Lebanon, graduated in Journalism and Communication Arts and Major of Promotion in the French Baccalaureate. Full of motivation, she’s a very ambitious and hard-working person. She’s consistently committed to her work and always ready to seize new experiences.