Street Art

Urban Grafitti

Painting Aley Red

Art

An explosion of images adorns the once drab concrete of Aley’s bridges, walls and walkways– from eye-popping Arabic calligraphy to cartoon characters, historical figures, whimsical children, Banksy-like stencils and Cubist paintings.

In 2017, the NGO Ahla Fawda (literally Best Chaos) founded by Eman Assaf, partnered with the municipality of Aley and the Tourism and Culture ministries in an unusual bid to commission graffiti from a selection of Lebanese and U.K. street artists.

“Aley place has incredible art, old buildings, vast views. It could be just as important as Jounieh or Baalbeck, and only 30 minutes from Beirut,” Assaf said. “We’re here to highlight the work already done, and bring it the attention it deserves.”
“While famous artists have come to Lebanon, adorned some walls, and dashed back to Europe, we’ve never seen real partnerships between Lebanese and international street artists before,” Assaf said.
“Through the festival’s street art, we’re working to grow local talent while also creating long-term cross-cultural collaboration.”

After the festival, several participating Lebanese artists travelled to the U.K. for residencies.

Street

The street artists’ styles differ as wildly as their backgrounds.
“My style is freestyle funky fresh psychedelic surf,” says Morgan Davy from the South London Minesweeper Collective, gesturing toward his colorful abstract mural.

Nearby, Lebanese graffiti artist Exist spray-paints a wall with elaborate Arabic letters. “When I was little, hip-hop was always on the radio talking about this thing called graffiti,” he recalls. “It didn’t exist where I’m from in the mountains and, though warring gangs often tagged their territory with it, graffiti in Lebanon was never the art form it was in the U.K.”
Exist’s collective, RBK (Rioting Bunch of Klowns), adopt street-art styles from the skateboard cultures of France and Greece, and add a distinctive Lebanese touch. “I started out doing Latin graffiti because that’s all I knew and saw but then I realized I could bring my own language to this art, and began improvising with Arabic.”

Working side by side, the artists chatted and stole glances at each other’s art, picking up different themes and techniques by osmosis. “I can’t help walking around to see what everyone else is doing,” Exist says. “Each time I view my own piece in a new way.”

Comics &


Dan Cimmermann, a U.K. artist who specializes in portraits of historical British figures, has branched out into Lebanese historical figures. “Since I’m here in this new culture,” he says, “I might as well stretch myself a bit.” He is responsible for the mural of Alphonse Lamartine and his wife, facing the “Balcony” in Aley.

Art Imitates

Lebanese graffiti artists are also stretching themselves culturally – just by leaving Beirut. “Cities like Aley are close-knit, conservative. You can’t just grab your paint and take to the streets,” says Spaz, a Chouf street artist who works with Exist. “We want to explore our country but it’s hard to find places outside private and government control. We’ve been waiting for a program like this that allows us to really enter a community.”

"All it takes is a bit of paint for people to realize the potential of an already beautiful place.”

Eman Assaf

Given Beirut’s own fondness for skyrocketing rents, places like Aley have the potential to become destinations for more than short-term tourists. “While the government sleeps, it’s up to us to wake up and do something new for these cities,” Assaf says. “All it takes is a bit of paint for people to realize the potential of an already beautiful place.”

From Bridge to

Aley’s street art can be found in many locations within the city – from the walls outside the old Hotel Gebeily, to the Balcony, and bridge of Damascus Road.

Heather & Sami Eljurdi

Founders • Archivists • Editors

Street Art Aley

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Aley-Damascus Bridge, Balcony, Hotel Jbeily exterior wall …

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