How Has Art Been Affected By Lebanese Culture And Who We Are?

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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Lebanon: a country so small but so beautiful. A country rich with culture and traditions. A country famous for its mountains and beaches and rivers and cities. How is all that reflected in our art? And how is our identity represented in that? 

Art – including music, literature, paintings or theatre, etc, – is something that has been greatly affected by our culture and our way of thinking. This is shown through the way art communicates our culture and mindset, how it preserves our traditions and how it brings out our people’s opinions.

Art expresses ideas which revolve around the way we think and see ourselves. Art is a mirror of our world view. The Lebanese people are hopeful and resilient individuals – having gone through the worst situations possible – and art represents that general character in its many forms. Take for example the famous icon Fairuz whose music brought hope to the Lebanese people in times of war and despair. The song “Bahebak Ya Lebnan” contains following the line:

Which translates to: “I told them our land is being reborn, the Lebanon of dignity and a people that perseveres”. Fairuz is a symbol of patriotism to the Lebanese people – a value we all cherish. Her patriotic songs reflect our resilience and hope for the ideal Lebanon we all strive to live in.

Being geographically locked by a huge mountain range from the East and open to the Mediterranean Sea at the West, we find ourselves open to the West and its culture, yet still firmly grounded in our Eastern roots. Our ancestors have always been great sailors and traders who explored the world around them. This open-minded, risk-taking entrepreneurial trait is part of our Lebanese identity, and we see it clearly displayed in our art. Fairuz’s art is a perfect reflection of that dichotomy that makes us unique.

Her songs encourage us to stay determined and to remember our resilience and true identity – a prime example of how art communicates our mindset and culture.

Another aspect of our culture are traditions which we cherish in a country rich with them. Traditions often unite us no matter our background and a prime example is the one and only Dabke. The Dabke is a traditional folk dance which combines circle dance and line dancing, mainly performed at weddings and other joyous occasions. It originally started in rural villages where roofs of houses were made of mud and twigs and would break apart when the seasons would change. This would require villagers to stamp on the roof to fix it and make it evenly flat. However, this needed to be synchronized and so they decided to come up with a pattern. They would enjoy this with some music as well, and thus Dabke was born. This shows how this beautiful dance originated through helping one another and enjoying coming together for a good cause. This form of dancing is also inclusive of all Lebanese people and is a symbol of unity. It is a reflection of Lebanon’s diversity and the fact that all of us, no matter our gender and religion, can join to celebrate anything and everything in a fun and traditional dance together. This art form is thus another symbol of our culture and how we think.

Furthermore, culture affects our art through the way it brings out people’s opinions. We have many art forms that are beautiful and allow people to express themselves, but one of the main forms is graffiti. For instance, the above piece, which was drawn in Beirut when the Lebanese revolution started in October 2019, illustrates the protests against the social, economic and political conditions in Lebanon and the artist wanted to give a message of hope for the achievement of our human rights, therefore bringing his perspective out for us to see and identify with. 

Another example is this piece which was created after the Beirut explosion. The artist wanted to depict the city with two pigeons representing peace and the word “hope”, which allowed their message to come through. Graffiti is an example of how culture and the way we think affect art, and these expressions make us who we are, which is Lebanese. 

To conclude, art, in all its forms, is affected by our culture and how we think through the way art communicates our ideas, how it preserves our traditions and embodies our opinions. Remember to always remember where you came from and embrace our beautiful culture.

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