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Top-News  |  31. August 2015

SYRIAN ARTISTS IN LEBANON

March 2011: the Arabian Spring has reached Syria. People peacefully advocated the political reform of their country – but the situation escalated and civil war broke out. In the past three years, 160.000 people have lost their lives in this war and over 10 million their homes. In Lebanon alone, more than a million Syrian citizens have sought refuge there.

Among these refugees are ten thousands of thinkers, free spirits and artists. In Syria, the art scene does no longer exist, as it has shifted almost completely to the Lebanon. But the living conditions do not really allow the artists to capture their visions and impressions on paper or canvas. Most of them have no other opportunity than to earn a living by working in a restaurant or a construction site. Out of their own desperation, these people are willing to work for a pittance, crammed in tiny rooms with others and the pay they get simply isn’t enough. There is nothing left to buy working materials, drawing utensils or paint brushes. And the art scene itself is not at all prudish. There are just too many artists who are able to produce fantastic work but are still not able to provide their own living. Gallery owners are aware of this predicament and keep exercising downward pressure on prices.

The Syrian civil engineer, Raghad Mardini, has left Syria together with her family in June 2011 and migrated to the Lebanon. The journey took her to a place located 17 km away from the walls of Beirut. Here, she fell in love with the architecture and the nature. She came across stables that were destroyed during the civil war. It took one year to reconstruct the buildings and cocker up the neighboring walnut trees. In April 2012, she invited an artist to Aley who has found refuge in Turkey. Based on this first encounter, the idea to create a sanctuary for Syrian artists – the Art Residence Alye (ARA) - was born. Mardini describes the ARA as a symbolic place: “destroyed and abandoned, still this place emanated an inner beauty which couldn’t be ignored. With enough love and energy it was possible to revive it and make way for new and productive things.” The Art Residence Alye is an area of peace and freedom. The atmosphere is characterized by friendship and social exchange. Artists from all the different regions of Syria, with different social and religious backgrounds are living peacefully side by side.

The artists who come here have experienced and become witnesses of traumatic events. Most of them try to process these experiences in their work. The dark colors of the drawings and paintings represent the loss of their homeland, the lack of joy, families torn apart and the appalling and still on-going bloodshed. The paintings illustrate a fragmented and uprooted society that lives in a constant state of despair. But there also are artists who try to bring a smile to the Syrian people in these dark hours. They work with bright and vibrant colors and are able to spare some lightness for their art.

Art Residence Alye is a non-profit organization that enables Syrian artists in exile to devote themselves to their passion again. Two artists are provided with a full scholarship and invited to Aley for 2-4 weeks. They are supplied with everything they might need: materials, accommodation, food, peace and security. This kind of environment encourages creativity and gives rise to hopes.

In the course of the past three years, Art Residence Aley has developed into an artistic and cultural center. Symposiums for painting and sculptors came to life here. Furthermore, there is a constant exchange of ideas and the artists’ works are regularly showcased in an exhibition. The squares and streets of the small city are decorated with sculptors and monuments. But for Raghad Mardini, this still isn’t enough. She is striving for a dialogue not only among contemporary Syrian artists but also between the international communities. An initial start were the exhibitions in Amman (Jordan), Berlin (Germany) and Washington DC (USA).

 

 

Schlagworte/Keyterms: Syrian artists, Syrian artists in exile, artists in exile, artists in Lebanon, Syrian art, art in exile, exile in Lebanon

 

 

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