I graduated from ALBA, Académie Libanaise Des Beaux-Arts, with an MA degree in illustration. My journey began following a phone call from Toufoula, an NGO that creates dream rooms in children cancer wards all over Lebanon, asking me to design a painting to be executed in a hospital room. Upon finishing the design, another question followed, thus marking the beginning of a unique journey. It was with the utmost enthusiasm and excitement that I agreed to venture into mural art and work with Toufoula to transform blank hospital rooms into magical worlds, where corridors would come to life. Patients, parents, nurses, and even doctors enjoyed small colorful strokes in this big transformation making it an unforgettable experience.
My first street expression
I spent few years painting in interiors, until the horrific garbage crisis in 2015 led to huge protests in the streets, where walls of separation were erected between the protesters and the prime ministers’ headquarters. This also led me as an artist to carry my brush outdoors and express myself in the most public of spaces with cameras and media everywhere. It was an outlet for a childhood frustration I’ve been living with for a very long time in a forever turmoiled country. The removal of the walls of separation in less than 24 hours proved to everyone back then the echoing voice and power of street art.
Street art can make a difference
Another successful art experience where I expressed my voice and my call for change is the Ouzville project, where people from all over Lebanon broke the many barriers, in terms of different sects and communities, and joined hands to make a difference in one of Beirut suburbs’ neglected neighbourhoods. Ouzville has proved that change is possible even among the older generation, as people touched the influence and power of art in bringing about a positive change in themselves and their neighbourhoods. Witnessing the impact of Ouzville, more opportunities like this are strongly needed to narrow down the gaps between the differing perspectives of the Lebanese population. Besides, such endeavours must also be supported by governmental efforts to touch areas that art cannot fix alone such as poverty and other social issues. Art can deliver a message and contribute to change but it cannot be the only element in change. Thus, politics, government, school education and people themselves along with art are all integral and interdependent to achieve a real change. The few active individuals cannot take it all on their shoulders.
My art is my voice
My message as an artist is accessible to a large number of people who can see and interact with my art. Despite the political challenges that impede a true change strongly sought for in the Lebanese social and economic scene, art and street art remain an inevitable mean of self-expression for me. I firmly believe that it is important to say something, to voice an expression in the face of the current situation we all want to change. Maybe we might not attain the answers or changes we aim for today or tomorrow, but we might as well speak up and break the silence for the sake of our kids and future generations. Change takes time, and we must start somewhere.
Kids are a valuable inspiration for art and for change
As most interactions and enthusiasm come from kids and young adults, I firmly believe that change is in the hands of the new generation rather than the older one. For me, working with kids is very important at this point as they are the most flexible and willing in terms of the change we all seek. Education is indeed very important as well in sowing the seeds of a better future for the next generations to reap. However, joining art activities can have integral effects on children as it is a very important exposure. This was particularly evident for me during the magical school bus project for Syrian refugees, which was part of Conexus art project in the Malaak Education Centre in Akkar, northern Lebanon.
My signature as an artist is a drawing on the walls of streets calling out for protection
I feel sometimes that we live in a surreal world of destruction and I feel that there is no will inside people’s hearts to take care of what matters. This feeling inspired a sort of an icon that I’m drawing in the streets, which is a woman holding an old house that bears the traditional architecture of old Beirut, and in her hair the words “I protect” inscribed in Arabic. I painted it on an old building that was being torn down. At one point, there were rocks all around this painted woman, holding on tight to the house, and people took pictures of it and shared it on social media, which shows that they relate to the pain and frustration we feel upon witnessing the destruction of our architectural heritage. My last project in Jiyeh, southern Lebanon, also bears a woman who seems to be protecting elements of nature and reflects the traditional identity of the area.
Women in my art
My signature mural is not only a message for the protection of our traditional homes. It also portrays a woman in the nude with her eyes closed dreaming of a better future. Her nudity is a stance against the fear of the woman body in our society. Her nudity represents innocence and her body is not something to hide or fear. She is just her pure self without any social restraints, back to origins, to innocence, to the garden of Eden. In addition to the traditional element in my signature, the feminine element reflects my support for the women cause. As a Lebanese female artist, my presence in the streets across Lebanon from South to North pursuing my passion for street art is a stance in favour of women and a statement that we must always pursue our dreams especially when they are beyond social expectations.
Relational art is my method
By adopting this method, observed and highlighted by French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud, people become an integral part of my art and the public space my canvas, where the social context defines and inspires my works. Engaging people in the painting process are moments of happiness for me. The enthusiasm of kids and the support of people who participate in my art projects and activities is what means to me most as an artist. The influence and value of art in such cases goes way beyond its political impact. People are more willing to join, support and take part of such initiatives that serve the public good away from the taint of politics. Thus, art becomes a shared experience and an expression of a shared reality.