Lebanon, the cultural hub of the Middle East, establishes yet another landmark for artists to connect, create, interact and merge with the local communities within a cultural and artistic environment. Located in the rural village Hammana, this unconventional setting gives Hammana Artist House a wider scope in terms of its message and purpose. Besides connecting world artists and providing a space for them to create and innovate, Hammana Artist House aims to highlight Lebanese villages and decentralize the cultural beat from the capital Beirut towards rural areas. This initiative is a project carried out by Dr. Robert Eid and Collectif Kahraba and was inaugurated on August 12, 2017.
Dr. Eid left Lebanon shortly after the outbreak of the civil war in 1975. He studied Economics at the American University of Beirut and obtained a PhD in Money & Banking from the University of Panthéon-Sorbonne in Paris. He is currently the CEO & Managing Director of one of the largest banks in the Middle East. Hammana was his mother’s village and his summer haven, today it is the place to make a dream come true. His firm commitment to culture “as an integral part of collective memory has inspired him to realize the Hammana Artist House hoping it will bring people and creative ideas together and contribute to a society of openness and tolerance,” as well as giving a beat of life to a rural village.
Collectif Kahraba, on the other hand, is a performing arts company founded in 2007 and comprising artists and technicians from different walks of life who firmly believe that art is a pathway for dialogue and openness. This growing network of actors, writers, stage directors, photographers, puppeteers and dancers aim to build a culture of peace and coexistence through such initiatives as Hammana Artist House.
This partnership between people from totally different backgrounds turns an old house in a rural Lebanese village into a dynamic cultural hub accommodating artists from all over the world. The idea was inspired by a dire need in Lebanon and regional countries for a space for artists where they can have the time, space, exposure and the necessary atmosphere to meet, create and share ideas, while at the same time bring life to and influence the rural community accommodating them.
Dr. Eid notes: “The house is located in a remote mountain area, yet not so far from the capital Beirut. The purpose of such setting is an attempt to revive and highlight the rural villages in Lebanon that have witnessed a decrease in population and livelihood after the civil war. The location is in the village Hammana, but the house is dedicated for a world community of artists to meet, create, collaborate, and succeed.” Concerning the house itself, he says: “I was committed to make a good use of this property outside the premises of investments and profits. It was this dedication that paved the way for a collaboration with Collectif Kahraba to eventually establish this house and serve the communal good through art and culture.”
Eid also notes that the Hammana Artist House “reaffirms the importance of reviving cultural life in villages and outside capitals,” hoping that this initiative will inspire similar adventures and initiatives across Lebanon.
Aurélien Zouki, founder of Collectif Kahraba and co-artistic director of Hammana Artist House explains that this project aims “to branch out the art culture from Beirut to different areas in Lebanon, especially rural areas that need to be revived and highlighted.” He adds that this project contributes to building a long-term culture and awareness on how art can improve communities and bring people together. As for Collectif Kahraba’s vision: “Hammana Artist House is a necessary project for every society, regardless of time and place. It is a space for encounters and discoveries, where the audience is invited to take part every step of the creative process.”
Managing director Geoliane Arab regards this project as “an example of the world we dream of.” She explains that the house is open for foreign artists as much as it is open for Lebanese artists. In the first few months following the opening, they will be hosting local groups, and then international groups from France, Switzerland and other countries will be visiting the house. Geoliane further says: “We are building partnerships with several institutions outside Lebanon. We want this house to be a connecting hub bringing together the local population, international artists and diverse audiences.”
The Hammana Artist House is a multidisciplinary art residency space with a focus on performing arts and visual arts. It comprises spaces for rehearsals and artist hosting, a scenography workshop and an open-air theatre, and it proposes a year-round artistic program under the artistic direction of Collectif Kahraba. Besides rooms for hosting guests, kitchens, bathrooms, training spaces, research room and a spacious meeting hall, the house can accommodate an audience up to 500 people promising diverse and elaborate programs.
This project is as much promising for Lebanon as it is for artists all over the world. Drawing inspiration from nature and culture, artists now have a new vital destination to innovate, share ideas and collaborate with their peers in a beautiful rural village set in the panoramic mountains of Lebanon. The vision of the center is inclusive focusing primarily on propagating a message of world unity and solidarity and making this world a better and happier place through art!
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