Art and fashion bring aesthetics to the daily lives in ashes of the Lebanese people

Among the Lebanon in crisis, some sectors seem to be keeping their heads above water: an analysis of a thwarted trauma.

Samia Tawil

By Samia Tawil03 novembre 2022

Official visual of the 12th edition of the Lebanese Independent Film Festival (Lebanese Independent Film Festival)

Lebanon is still reeling from the losses and destruction of the 2020 explosion, compounded by an extraordinary financial crisis. Now, with Lebanon already weakened by the pandemic, these two subsequent additional shocks are bringing the last remaining sectors to their knees.



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One trauma too many

Thus, while the resilience of the Lebanese people is no longer to be proven, the anger that is exacerbated goes as far as to affect the golden youth... To the point of witnessing bank robberies by young working graduates such as the one recently perpetrated by the young interior designer Sali Hafiz, armed and determined to recover her frozen assets. In this land of contrasts where gaps between social classes are becoming abyssal, it seems ironical, for once, that everyone be on the same boat.

Aesthetics among the disaster: fashion resists

Beirut, Lebanon, 16 March 2021: Demonstrators set fire to tyres to block a Beirut street as the Lebanese pound hits a new record low by trading at LL15,100 to the dollar on the black market (Shutterstock)

Lebanese haute couture was booming before the crisis. It was able to strongly establish itself in the Middle East and beyond, through creations of renowned designers. Now, Zuhair Murad's workshops, with their gutted facades, are a testimony to the fulgurating disaster and to Lebanese fashion design that was wounded in its ascent. It seems, however, that the fashion designer was able to thwart fate by drawing his inspiration from destruction. Using the mesh fabrics covering the scaffolding of his destroyed building, he created a dress tribute to the victims in August 2020 and organized a charity sale via NFT entitled RedressLebanon. The profits were donated to IDRAAC, the first NGO dedicated to the issue of mental health in Lebanon.

On the same street, the fashion designer Elie Saab, known among others for his collaboration with Harrod's and for the famous dress worn by Halle Berry during her victory at the Oscars in 2002, also saw his workshop blown up. Despite these setbacks, he immediately set about rebuilding and would present a new ready-to-wear collection in September 2020, followed by a Haute couture show in July 2021. "We chose to stay in the country (...) and continue our savoir-faire mission." A feeling that many Lebanese share, regretting the absence of the diaspora during these challenging times.

Who benefits from the crisis?

The fall of the Lebanese pound seems to have given ideas to the Lebanese people with a foot abroad and, especially, with a well-filled bank account abroad. In view of the exchange rate, the interest among this fringe of the population in investing in luxury real estate is proliferating, as it is one of the rare sectors to be paradoxically favored by the crisis. Sales prices are mainly targeting the diaspora, to the detriment of residents. The question then arises as to whether to applaud the commercial intelligence or to scream at the impudence.

Zuhair Murad's Redress Lebanon initiative to help raise funds for IDRAAC, the first NGO to focus on the issue of mental health in Lebanon (Zuhair Murad)

Thus, while some think of bypassing the misdeeds of the crisis by generating profit thanks to it, others decide to meet it head on. The artistic world seems to have found its own way to embody this crisis, in a cry that should finally be heard, as though to mourn its losses, and to show the greedy ruling class that its mistakes will not be forgotten.

For yes, torture has the reputation of numbing souls. And isn't it a form of torture to constantly rebuild a world? A post-modern Sisyphus myth in the decorum of the burning concrete in a megalopolis with a fragmented, plundered heritage. Description of an artistic scene flayed alive...

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