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
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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.”


Did Younes Bendjima just call Kourtney Kardashian out on Instagram?

Kourtney Kardashian is dating French-Algerian model Younes Bendjima. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 17 July 2018
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Did Younes Bendjima just call Kourtney Kardashian out on Instagram?

DUBAI: The Kardashians are no strangers to harsh comments on social media, but did Kourtney Kardashian’s boyfriend — Algerian-born model Younes Bendjima — just troll her on Instagram?
According to US-based website The Shade Room and the entertainment world’s vault of all things scandalous, TMZ, the 25-year-old model left an unsavory comment on a snap that the mother-of-three posted on Monday.
Kardashian shared a snap of herself wearing a floral-print bikini with the caption, “Don’t be shady, be a lady,” alongside a sunshine emoji. The photo leaves little to the imagination, with the reality TV star wearing a wide-brimmed, floppy hat and a skimpy swimsuit.
According to media reports, Bendjima commented: “That’s what you need to show to get likes?” in a now deleted post.
“Kourtney, your man has questions sis. Y’all think he was just playing or nah? The comment has since been deleted (sic),” The Shade Room posted on its Instagram account.
In retaliation, fans of the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star flooded Bendjima’s Instagram account with similar comments on photos in which the model is posing without his shirt.
The pair just returned from a much-documented-on-social-media holiday in Italy’s Capri, which Kardashian’s three children — Penelope, Mason and Reign Disick — enjoyed with the lovebirds. Mother and manager — momager, if you will — Kris Jenner also made a surprise appearance on the yachting vacation.
Kardashian and Bendjima reportedly met during Paris Fashion Week in October 2016, when Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint.
According to W Magazine, he stepped in to act as a translator between the Kardashian family and French police.
Bendjima, who reportedly previously dated model British Jourdan Dunn, splits his time between New York and Paris — where his mother lives — and speaks fluent Arabic, English and French.

He was scouted in 2011 and made his runway debut in 2013, walking the catwalk for French fashion house Givenchy. The model has also starred in campaigns for Hermes, Calvin Klein, Burberry and Ralph Lauren among other high-end brands.