A new cultural initiative seeks to aid in the restoration of heritage homes wrecked by the Aug. 4 blast. Launched last week, Beirut Collective Memory seeks to wed humanitarian aid with artistic production.
The initiative is a collaboration of operatic vocalist Hiba Al Kawas, the Lebanese-German Council for Culture and Antiquities, youth NGO Mentor Arabia, financial auditor Alyafi Group and the Directorate General of Antiquities.
Kawas intends to hold a multimedia cinematic concert in about a month’s time to raise money for the restoration of 12 badly damaged heritage buildings in the Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael areas. To this end, she’s calling for the participation of artists, musicians and performers, both local and international.
Afterward, a version of the concert will go on a world tour, working with artists in host countries to raise funds, and to remind the international community of Beirut’s plight.
“Alone I can’t do anything but together, as we’ve learned in Lebanon, we can do something,” Kawas said at a recent news conference, backlit by a ruined heritage building in Gemmayzeh. “We’re taking care of our heritage, which is not just our past, but also our present and our future.
“It’s not just a collective memory. It’s a collective effort, and we’re asking everyone to help in any small way they can,” she added. “Music is a language that transcends all boundaries and catastrophes … so for the next year we will join forces with celebrities, orchestras and performers from around the world, some projected virtually, to create a performance for the benefit of Lebanon.”
The collective will also work with NGO Mentor Arabia to conduct art therapy workshops for children traumatized during the blast.
“This distinctive initiative, will be a platform to encourage youth to volunteer and serve their communities, to contribute to the reconstruction of their homeland,” Mentor Arabia executive director Thuraya Ismail said, “and a real step to revive hope for the Lebanese people through art, love, and investment in stone and people together.
“Studies show that the most successful way to heal and work through trauma has been through arts and culture,” she added, “so we’ll be running workshops to give children, who might have lost a family member or trauma from injury, space and time to grieve, in a positive way.”
Heritage restoration work will be carried out through the DGA, in order to meet the necessary standards. Work has already begun on the partially collapsed blue villa housing the Appetito Trattoria restaurant, and the collaborators hope to continue on other houses as money is raised.
The collective will soon launch a website to house their content, inform people of related events and to act as fundraising portal.