Lebanese students celebrate country's resilience in artform

Fourteen students were selected by a jury of professionals to illustrate creative ideas on how to keep the country going.
Friday 01/03/2019
 The entrance to the venue of the"Keep Walking Lebanon" competition. (Keep Walking Lebanon)
In the pursuit of fresh ideas. The entrance to the venue of the"Keep Walking Lebanon" competition. (Keep Walking Lebanon)

BEIRUT - University students were given the stage for the first time, after celebrities had the honour for years, to interpret the annual “Keep Lebanon Walking” campaign, celebrating the country’s resilience and giving hope for a better future.

Out of more than 200 individual and group applicants from various artistic fields, including film, graphic design, architecture, interior design and fashion, 14 were selected by a jury of professionals to illustrate creative ideas on how to keep the country going.

The winning submissions were transformed into projects under the mentorship of a person on the five-member jury and showcased at an exhibition February 7-9.

“This year we are involving the youth because this generation is the majority of the population and they are the present and their sons and daughters will be the future,” says Bechara Mouzannar, CEO of Leo Burnett and jury member.

“We wanted to give them a voice because we believe in their potentials and their ability to show us how we can keep walking, which means the ability to demonstrate solutions of their own.”

Being young and innovative, the students have different ways of thinking and can propose fresh ideas and solutions to existing issues that older generations might think are strange or weak, Mouzannar said.

“We have to listen more to them and believe in what they can do,” he said. “In most of the projects you see that sometimes they are critical but they always propose a solution that shows they really want to remove obstacles and find opportunities to make something positive out of the negative things that happen around them.”

Since its introduction in 2004, the “Keep Walking Lebanon” campaign (sponsored by the Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker) has featured Lebanese celebrities and top achievers in their fields, including award-winning director Nadine Labaki. Her 2018 film “Capernaum” has been nominated for an Academy Award. Renowned Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab has also been a participant.

The 14 final projects covered topics ranging from young people’s attachment to their country, Lebanon’s garbage problem and water waste, national unity and creative self-sustainable community designs.

“The Route 961” by Yasmine Saad and Lama Saleme, interior architecture students at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, tells of Lebanese people who grow up attached to their country despite its shortfalls and decide to stay and help make it a better place.

Visitors walk through the immersive installation, a suspended room, they cannot turn back but must keep moving forward.

“It shows how our perception of Lebanon changes as we grow up and see the many negative things around us. At one point, we start asking ourselves what keep us in this country, why do we want to stay?” said Saleme, 20.

“We believe that as Lebanese and part of the young generation, we are supposed to stay where our roots and values are and turn our back to the negative things in order to be able to move forward and make positive change.”

Another interactive installation is “Wall to Bridge” by Carole el Danaf that underpinned the importance of bridging religious, cultural and social divides through collective effort.

Visitors stand on the two sides of a platform obstructed by two walls. When four people stand on each side of the platform, the walls collapse electronically and meet to create a bridge. Once the bridge is formed, it reveals a sentence that is painted across: “We are weak when divided. When united we are strong.”

A project by fashion design students showcased a garment that could can be used as a jacket, backpack or hammock, items hikers need to keep advancing.

“Deconstruct” by Sarah Abou Rahal, an interior architecture student, revolves around the problem of garbage in Lebanon. It is illustrated by a fishnet filled with garbage that gets bigger and bigger then starts to fall.

“This is what’s happening now,” Abou Rahal said. “People do not realise that they can do something about it and that it is time for us to take concrete action, instead of nagging. Before it becomes too late, triage and recycling are needed to create something good out of something ugly and to advance and go forward.”

All students participating in the final 14 projects will have the opportunity to gain field experience through internships with one of the judges, each relevant to the person’s field of study.

“I really believe in this generation. We should be guiding them and helping them implement their innovative ideas,” said Mouzannar.

He said university students who created the projects “believe in what the country could offer and what they can do to create positive change.”

“You feel that they all love their country and, in a way, that is very touching to see,” he added.