As Beirut—in many ways the centre of Arab art—settles with the reverb of one of the most colossal tragedies in modern history, the collective Arab art and creative community has banded to extend unwavering support. The support isn’t just in mending scorched facades and devastated cultural sites, but to ensure Lebanon’s communities—already bearing the weight of revolution, economic collapse, and a global pandemic—are able to, at the very least, land on their feet.
The Beirut port explosion’s death toll continues to rise, now at 180, with at least 6,000 injured and 300,000 homeless. It has ravaged neighbourhoods, museums, heritage sites, galleries and art spaces. Be it actual homes or havens that housed Lebanon’s art communities, Arab creators and platforms are trying to MacGyver this cobwebbed inferno that has ripped through the Lebanese capital through screenings, playlists, relief funds, donations, auctions, and pro bono services offered to those affected.
Arab music platform Habibi Funk set the bar high by raising almost $12,000 in 24 hours with the ‘Solidarity with Beirut’ project; a compilation of various artists with 100% of the profits going to the Lebanese Red Cross. What started with the platform hurriedly trying to raise funds, then became an impressively curated music project led by regional voices.
You can order totes and prints by Lebanese artist Nour Flayhan on online concept store Dikkeni.
In a similar vein, an initiative titled ‘Artist Fundraiser for Beirut’ raised $6,000 during a 24-hour livestream where over 40 artists from all across the region and globe performed, hosted screenings, or even streamed podcasts. From Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, podcasting powerhouse Kerning Cultures, and Egyptian journalist and author Alya Mooro among many other notable creatives, the event continued flooding in donations well after its wrap, and has donated its proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross.
With the Lebanese pound’s value dropping to record lows, and an economy that was already on the brink of collapse, the arts community has been strained well before the explosion. Film and TV sets were barely afloat, with producers unable to pay crews and many directors and artists opting to leave Lebanon behind because of the industry’s rocky terrain. The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) and Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy have launched the 'Lebanon Solidarity Fund,' an international fundraising campaign to help support the community in Beirut. Both platforms will helm the fund by contributing seed capital and then handling its management and distribution to salvage and restore arts and culture organisations and spaces. That includes repair, asset replacement, protection of invaluable collections and archives (films, art or books), and establishing a direct support fund for individual artists who have lost their homes, equipment, instruments or need any fixes or replacement to their workspaces.
In addition to organisations mobilising their resources and efforts, individuals have also kick started initiatives and fundraisers to help. Acclaimed Lebanese/American photographer Rania Matar partnered with the Social & Economic Action for Lebanon (SEAL) is selling some of her prints and donating all proceeds, so far raising a whopping $67,000. So is the eclectic UAE photographer Waleed Shah, rising Syrian illustrator and designer Rama Duwaji, and the ever-impressive Lebanese artist, Nour Flayhan.
The explosion has also left various, already vulnerable communities particularly disadvantaged. The Lebanese queer community in diaspora, along with allies, have set up the ‘Rebuilding Beirut with Pride’ fund, which has so far raised over $25,000. On Saturday August 22nd, an on-ground, socially-distant fundraiser event will take place in the Bell Pub in Whitechapel, London. The night will include an online art auction you can join from anywhere around the world, and livestreamed performances by drag icons in the community. All proceeds from the night will be donated to selected NGOs (Lebanese Red Cross, Basmeh & Zeitooneh and Embrace Lebanon), as well as a campaign to help trans and non-binary individuals affected by the explosion.
The ‘Disaster Relief for Lebanese Transgender Community’ fund is targeting unemployed transgender and non-binary individuals, and has so far raised over $80,000 on its GoFundMe page.
Artists, and vulnerable communities within that intersection, are now bracing themselves to having to navigate the overbearing weight of rebuilding it all from the ground up. You can support those affected by clicking here for a list of platforms and institutions that continue to offer unwavering aid for the city’s return as the region’s arts and culture capital.
Main image by Rania Matar.