Lebanese artist pays tribute to leaving a life behind

Lebanese artist Yazan Halwani’s mural “The inevitability of leaving things behind” on a five-story building in Mannheim, Germany, June 21, 2017. (photo by Alexander Krziwanie / Stadt.Wand.Kunst/Montana Cans)


12 July 2017 |Talia Abbas | Al-Monitor

“Drawn over a five-story apartment building in Mannheim, Germany, Lebanese artist Yazan Halwani’s mural shows a young bearded Arab man packing his suitcase. His eyes are closed but his hands are quick and determined as he folds clothes into a suitcase. The artwork is called “The inevitability of leaving things behind.”

“I think a lot of Lebanese who would see this think of sad moments — such as watching their parents, siblings, friends or even themselves packing up and leaving the country for an indefinite amount of time,” Halwani, 24, told Al-Monitor after he finalized the mural at the end of June.

Born and based in Beirut, Halwani is known for his murals and paintings that explore cultural identity. He uses Arabic calligraphy in novel forms, breaking down the specific measurements of traditional calligraphy to create pixel-like figures that merge into the mural.

artist yazan
Artist Yazan Halwani in front of his mural “The inevitability of leaving things behind,” June 27, 2017 (Alexander Krziwanie / Stadt.Wand.Kunst/Montana-Cans)


In the last five years, the artist has painted portraits of well-known figures such as Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Lebanese singers Fairouz and Sabah, and Samir Kassir, the assassinated Lebanese journalist and historian. Some of Halwani’s previous works include “Eternal Sabah” in Hamra and “Fairouz” in Gammayze, both in Beirut, and “The flower salesman” in Dortmund, Germany.

“The inevitability of leaving things behind” is part of a new series by Halwani, in which he aims to shed light on new aspects of Lebanese identity, in particular the mobility of the new Lebanese generation.

He said the modern identity of Lebanon was different from its folklore, which includes the internationally known singer Fairouz. “Many of the key elements of Lebanese identity are never represented in art,” he said, underlining that one of the main characteristics of the Lebanese was their tendency to “never be able to live or work in their own country.”

From that point of view, the mural is a reflection on modern Lebanese young people — a generation used to travel abroad for work or university and only returning to Lebanon once they are more established.

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