Painting the wall

Graffiti by Yazan Halwani, portraying Lebanese singer and icon Fairuz on a wall in the Gemmayze district.

Graffiti by Yazan Halwani, portraying Lebanese singer and icon Fairuz on a wall in the Gemmayze district.


The first thing that caught my eye as I peeked out the window from one of the office buildings overlooking Beirut’s city centre, was an explosion of colours, covering part of an otherwise monotonous and grey wall across the street.

What at a first glance appeared to me as part of the dark stripes drawn between colours suddenly started moving, revealing its real identity. A thin and olive-skinned young woman, with brown hair and a black dress, stopped working at her graffiti, looked around as if checking whether someone was watching her, crossed the street and vanished into an Hawa Chicken store.

It was around 4 pm of a sunny work day and the street was very busy. Nevertheless, the graffiti work on the wall of a private property was almost completed without its author being stopped, fined or arrested.

Some days later, at an exhibition of works by young street artist Yazan Halwani, I came across this picture:

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Of course there are walls in Beirut where it is illegal to paint, Halwani explained, “but sometimes if you talk to police and soldiers, explain what you are doing, tell them that you are not up to anything bad, they understand.” And, in this particular case, occurred 3 years ago, when Halwani was as young as 17, they were even willing to participate.As I was explained later, graffiti art is generally well received in Beirut, where it covers the signs of destruction left by the war on the city’s old buildings. At least it ie well received as long as politics are not involved, as shown in this documentary broadcast this year by Al Jazeera.

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