DUBAI: A new initiative is helping 100 artists, designers, and cultural researchers residing in Lebanon take up residencies in France. In the spirit of the proverb “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” it’s a move that reflects the strength of French-Lebanese cultural ties in the aftermath of the deadly Aug. 4 explosion last year and the prolonged economic crisis.
Lasting between one week and three months, the residency program – named NAFAS (Arabic for ‘breath’) – has been organized by the Institut français, Institut français du Liban and the Association des Centres culturels de rencontre (ACCR), which has facilitated a number of residences for foreign artists during the past 15 years for France’s Ministry of Culture.
“It’s a French tradition to be helpful and to welcome artists when it’s necessary,” ACCR’s General Delegate, Odile Pradem-Faure, told Arab News. “The French government and most of people in France are eager to preserve a good link with different parts of the world. We know that there is a long history between France and Lebanon.”
The NAFAS program provides a monthly allowance of €1,200 ($1,500), along with travel costs. The residencies, likely to begin in summer and autumn 2021, will take place in cultural centers around France that specialize in sound arts, music, novel and playwriting, architecture and visual arts.
On a deeper level, the program aims to offer artists who have recently been affected by loss and instability a “breathing space.” This explains the name of the program, according to Ilinca Martorell, ACCR’s administration and residences manager. “It speaks to the main idea of the project, which is giving the opportunity to have some freedom from day-to-day difficulties to be able to concentrate on creating art,” she says. “It allows the idea of going somewhere, at least for a while, where you put your luggage down, just breathe and have a carefree moment and the chance to create.”