Art brings ‘peace’ to battle-scarred Lebanon districts

Lebanese painters take part in a project, that aims to draw the word Peace in Arabic across 85 rooftops, in Tripoli’s Syria street which separetes the Sunni neighborhood of Bab Al-Tabbaneh from the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, in Tripoli on September 28, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017
0

Art brings ‘peace’ to battle-scarred Lebanon districts

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: From the street below it’s easy to miss the workers daubing rooftops as part of an ambitious art project in two battle-scarred neighborhoods of Lebanon’s Tripoli.
But the Ashekman street art duo behind the project say that once they’re done, the pistachio-green rooftops they are painting will spell out the word “salam” — Arabic for “peace” — on a scale visible from space.
The project, three years in the making, is the brainchild of 34-year-old twins Mohamed and Omar Kabbani.
They researched and rejected multiple locations in their native Lebanon before settling on Tripoli.
They chose a site spanning the Bab Al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods, which have fought successive rounds of armed clashes in recent years.
“We jumped from one location to another and finally we decided to do it here in Tripoli, specifically in Bab Al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, an area that has been in conflict,” said Omar Kabbani.
“We’re painting the word ‘salam’ across 85 building rooftops over 1.3 kilometers... to convey that people here are peaceful,” he said.
“And Lebanon in general, we want peace.”
Peace has been elusive in Sunni-majority Bab Al-Tebbaneh and the adjacent Alawite-majority Jabal Mohsen.
Fighters from the two areas have battled each other periodically for decades, and the war in neighboring Syria, pitting a Sunni-dominated uprising against Alawite President Bashar Assad, has further stirred existing enmities.
The clashes have gouged hundreds of bullet holes into building facades, while mortar fire has blasted through walls, rendering some homes uninhabitable.
Fighting between the neighborhoods has eased in the last two years, but photos of those killed in the most recent violence remain plastered across both areas.
Ashekman’s project runs on either side of the infamous Syria Street separating the two neighborhoods. The duo hired workers from across the divide to help them complete the project.
“All of the workers live here in the neighborhood, they lived the conflict, some of them got shot,” Omar Kabbani said.
“Two years ago they were hiding from bullets... now they’re painting their rooftops proudly.”
The brothers are sensitive to the observation that their project does little to address the most obvious scars of fighting or the area’s desperate poverty, often identified as a catalyst of the violence.
They say they chose paint that will seal rooftops against rain and reflect ultra-violet rays, cooling the homes below.
And in order to paint the rooftops, they had to negotiate with residents and often had to clear large amounts of trash and debris.
“It took us around 10 days just to remove all the garbage on the rooftops,” said Kabbani.
“With the garbage came a couple of rats, and we fought with some rats. It wasn’t an easy task,” he said, laughing.
Walid Abu Heit, 29, joined the project as a painter after hearing about it from March, a Lebanese NGO that has worked on reconciliation and rehabilitation in the rival neighborhoods.
He was born in Bab Al-Tebbaneh and worked at a dairy, but lost his job after violence erupted.
“It was very difficult when fighting broke out,” he said.
“Darkness engulfed the neighborhood. People stopped coming here.”
He and other workers lugged heavy tubs of paint up seven floors and began plastering a roof with the fluorescent green, which flecked his hands and boots.
“It’s an amazing project,” he said, smiling and shading his eyes from the blazing sun.
“The word peace, it’s a great word... we haven’t seen it for a long time, now we’re seeing it again.”


Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artifacts

Updated 24 April 2018
0

Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artifacts

  • The artifacts were plundered by British troops from the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II 150 years ago
  • Among the items on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum are sacred manuscripts and gold 

ADDIS ABABA: Britain must permanently return all artifacts from Ethiopia held by the Victoria and Albert Museum and Addis Ababa will not accept them on loan, an Ethiopian government official said.
The call comes after the museum, one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, put Ethiopian treasures plundered by British forces on display.
“Well, it would be exciting if the items held at the V&A could be part of a long-term loan with a cultural institution in Ethiopia,” museum director Tristram Hunt said.
“These items have never been on a long-term loan in Ethiopia, but as we look to the future I think what we’re interested in are partnerships around conservation, interpretation, heritage management, and these need to be supported by government assistance so that institutions like the V&A can support sister institutions in Ethiopia.”
Among the items on display are sacred manuscripts and gold taken from the Battle of Maqdala 150 years ago, when British troops ransacked the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II.
The offer of a loan did not go far enough for Ethiopia.
“What we have asked (for) was the restitution of our heritage, our Maqdala heritage, looted from Maqdala 150 years ago. We presented our request in 2007 and we are waiting for it,” said government minister Hirut Woldemariam said.
Ephrem Amare, Ethiopian National Museum director, added: “It is clearly known where these treasures came from and whom they belong to. Our main demand has never been to borrow them. Ethiopia’s demand has always been the restoration of those illegally looted treasures. Not to borrow them.”
The V&A could not immediately be reached for further comment on Monday.
In launching the Maqdala 1868 exhibition of what Hunt called “stunning pieces with a complex history” this month, he said the display had been organized in consultation with the Ethiopian community in London.
“As custodians of these Ethiopian treasures, we have a responsibility to celebrate the beauty of their craftsmanship, shine a light on their cultural and religious significance and reflect on their living meaning, while being open about how they came to Britain,” he said in a blog on the museum website.