CAIRO: With the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah now stopped due to a recent cease-fire, attention has been shifted to ways in which to help the devastated Lebanese economy and its people. The local cultural scene has decided to try to play a part in helping out.
Five individuals got together and decided to organize a solidarity campaign to increase awareness and to raise money – not for the large non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Lebanon, but for the smaller ones who are in need of donations to help support small groups of refugees who have received less attention and aid than larger groups.
Aleya Hamza, Mohammed Yousry, Laila Soliman and Hala El-Kousy, who are all either artists or work in the cultural field, put together the Li Beirut (For Beirut) Solidarity Campaign for Lebanon, which involves singing, poetry reading, film screening and exhibitions.
“We felt like the reaction in Egypt was very weak – in terms of cultural events and demonstrations, everything was small in number and low in voice. We felt like something else bigger had to be done, explains Soliman.
With that ambition in mind, they decided to host a series of cultural events and began by contacting a variety of venues. They received support from CIC (Contemporary Image Collectives), the Townhouse Gallery and Ebdaa Gallery, which are all hosting the events.
The launch of the campaign took place on Sunday evening at the CIC. It opened with readings from Siege Notes by Rasha Salti (read in Arabic and instantly translated into English), a poetry reading by Tamim Al-Barghouti, followed by a musical performance by Fairouz Karawya.
An exhibition of a video project of photos from Agence France-Press (AFP) taken during the war also opened on Sunday. All the pictures were taken inside Lebanon except one that was taken in Israel. “One of the board members of CIC, Jehan Amar, works for AFP, so she wanted to do a photo exhibition and to fund raise . so she collected all the images and sent them, says Hamza.
The painting exhibition in Ebdaa Gallery, which opened last night, is made up of paintings donated by 30 artists for the cause.
The Townhouse Gallery is hosting a musical night tonight starring El-Dor El-Awal, Laila Samy and Clay is One, but Trees Vary, by Eltamey Theater Group.
The Cairo Jazz Club is also helping out by providing this venue with the proper musical equipment for the concerts.
Cairo to Camps, a youth organization that focuses on Palestinian refugees, is also helping out in this campaign. “We are trying to raise money in an indirect way. We don’t sell tickets for the events, but we collect money by selling stickers, food, postcards and through a donation box, says Noheir Nashat, a longstanding member of the organization.
All profits go to NGOs working within Lebanon.
To turn this six-day event into a global campaign, partner Sarmady Communications (Starcom, Internet company) launched a Web site for the voices of the masses. Karim Haroony, business development manager of Starcom, says, “We were looking for a way to contribute because we know that anything these people do always has a positive impact, so we decided to make it global through the Internet.
The Web site is an open forum for public opinion. It has a blog section so people can express their points of view on the current situation and an image gallery where you can upload photos or comment on the existing ones. It is hosted under the umbrella of a regional Arabic portal, www.FilBalad.com.
The campaign’s cultural events will be ongoing through August 28.
Visit www.li-beirut.com for details on upcoming events, including film screening, concerts and exhibitions.