Can Beirut Recover? Artists Reflect on the August 4th Blast in Lebanon

Beirut City

August 4th, 2021 marks the one-year commemoration of the devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. There are still individuals in need of support who are driving forth relief efforts, as well as elevating the arts in Beirut as one way to demand change and government accountability. 

Today, please consider supporting Lebanese artists by purchasing The Beirut Call: Harnessing Creativity for Change, a collection from Elyssar Press that features the work of 21 artists, poets, professors, and activists. Proceeds from The Beirut Call help Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture fund artists, arts NGOs, and small creative enterprises’ projects in Lebanon.

In addition to revisiting that life-changing day and offering a first-person account, the contributing writers and artists in this anthology explore the theme of how—in the words of professor Dr. Mitri Raheb “art is a necessity” as well as a “political tool.” 

When the Beirut Explosion Happened

In the midst of a global pandemic, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded on August 4th, 2020. Hundreds of people lost their lives and thousands more were injured, traumatized, and impacted by this explosion. To add to the devastation and grief, the explosion could have been avoided—the unstable explosives had been stored unsafely in a port warehouse for six years. The Beirut port blast is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions that has occurred.

Often overlooked in traumatizing events like this explosion, is the role of the arts to center the lives of traumatized individuals, including children and adolescents. Art relief is often sidelined as unnecessary in the face of a disaster. Many individuals, such as Dr. Mitri Raheb of Dar-Al Kalima University, challenge this problematic viewpoint that ignores the complex role of art.

Dr. Raheb explains in the interview for The Beirut Call that “art is important as a political tool in the context of war and a post-traumatic context. It also is really important as a tool to express oneself.” For decades, art has been used to elevate movements for social justice, as protests around the world have demonstrated. Additionally, when entire communities are rattled and devastated, emotional healing via art is vital. No person should have to choose between which basic needs they receive, with the arts being just as essential to short and long-term recovery. 

Can Beirut Recover? Artists Call for Creative Change

Beirut has been called the Paris of the Middle East and right now, this city is experiencing a daily struggle. To meet 21 artists and individuals with their own unique experiences of August 4th, 2020, you can watch the Beirut Call Book Launch, and see how this anthology is just one part of elevating the lives of people directly impacted by the aftermath of the explosion.

Featured artists, activists, academics, and change-makers include Anthony Semaan, Carmen Yahchouchi, Cliff Makhoul, Dorine Potel Darwiche, Faten Yaacoub, Frank Darwiche, Joelle Sfeir, Katia Aoun Hage, Linda Tamim, Loulou Malaeb, Nada Raphael, Roula Salibi, Nadia Wardeh, Roula-Maria Dib, Omar Sabbagh, Rabih Rached, Wadih Al-Asmar, Reine Abbas, and Roula Douglas, with a foreword by Mitri Raheb and an introduction by Pamela Chrabieh.

21 profiles of artists in black and white for The Beirut Call Virtual Book Launch.
21 artists speak to greater hopes, daily life, and demands for change in The Beirut Call Virtual Book Launch. You can learn more or purchase the anthology here.

Support Artists Leading Recovery and Social Justice Efforts in Beirut

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Dr. Mitri Raheb, and Ms. Roula Salibi are largely responsible for making this anthology possible, and for creating a space for individual stories to be heard and shared across the world. When you purchase The Beirut Call, proceeds help Dar al Kalima University College of Arts and Culture as they fund artists, arts NGOs, and small creative enterprises’ projects in Lebanon.

The book transcends the borders of Lebanon as contributors address worldwide issues of war, peace, memory, history, identity, creativity, cultural resistance, resilience, artistic activism, human rights, feminism, social justice, intercultural dialogue.

You can learn more about this new anthology and purchase your copy today at: https://elyssarpress.com/books/the-beirut-call-arts-resilience-resistence/.

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Image of 21 artists featured in The Beirut Call

“We Had to Do Something.” Spotlight on The Beirut Call Book Launch

The Virtual Book Launch of “The Beirut Call,” celebrates a crucial anthology about resilience & resistance culture in Lebanon. The Beirut Call (Elyssar Press, 2021) features artists, poets, authors, and activists, whose academics testimonials, analyses, narratives, and stories inspire and demand social change.

Image cover of The Beirut Call

Art as a Political Tool: The Beirut Call Interview

This collection from Elyssar Press features the work of 21 artists, poets, professors, and activists, who together are exploring the theme of how—in the words of Dr. Mitri Raheb—“art is a necessity” and “a political tool.”

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