LAU artists unite for peace and justice
Students, alumni and faculty members enthusiastically take part in the SOS Art exhibition hosted by UNESCO.
The link between culture and peace is held in great consideration by LAU, whose guiding principles are civic engagement and the betterment of society. It is no surprise, then, that several members of the university community participated in the SOS (Save Our Souls) ART exhibition, hosted by UNESCO from February 19 to 25.
SOS ART has existed since 2003, created by Cincinnati-based Lebanese Saad Ghosn. Together with other artists, he originally conceived the idea of an art exhibition that would unite artists around the theme of peace and justice in the aftermath of 9/11.
“There was a climate of fear in the U.S. and many artists felt isolated,” Ghosn says, “so we thought of creating a venue where they could express what they thought was missing.” Given the unstable regional climate, Ghosn’s decision to introduce the concept to his country of origin this year is more than logical.
The event at UNESCO welcomed all forms of art, ranging from painting and sculpture to theater and poetry. A panel discussion, facilitated by LAU’s Assistant Professor of Political Science Makram Ouaiss, tackled the issue of poverty in Lebanon and its impact on peace and justice.
“There are many social problems left by the war and we have to remind Lebanon that our struggle has not yet ended,” says Ouaiss, ex-coordinator of the pro-peace coalition of 29 nongovernmental organizations Wahdatouna Khalasouna (Our Unity is Our Salvation), which supported the realization of SOS Art. “At a time in which the region is hemorrhaging, the voices of peace should be louder than guns.”
One of the most incisive pieces was presented by LAU student Liane Mathes Rabbath, a well-regarded visual artist based in downtown’s Galerie Ghandour. Her metal installation, entitled The Dress of Hope, depicts two separate sides of the same dress. One of them bears the scars of bullets, while the other one those of the gravel. “The idea is that these two sides can be reunited and form the perfect union between peace and justice,” says Rabbath.
Among the exhibitors was also artist and LAU fine arts instructor Zeina Badran, who presented a powerful painting that captures the emotions of the 2006 Israeli invasion, as well as 17 etching prints of a hand, representing the theme of healing. “The repetition of elements represents the passage of time, while the gauze that connects them is the heartbeat and the vector of healing,” says Badran. The hand, purposefully represented with an open palm, is a clear invitation to put an end to violence and conflict.
Fine arts third-year student Lara Tannir also joined forces in sending out a message of peace. Her 3D collage personifies injustice as a face, distorted into a scream as the hands of other people pull a rope around its neck.
The exhibition inspired the public to think more deeply about the meaning of peace and injustice, and provided artists with an occasion to connect and benefit from each other’s work.
“The idea behind SOS ART is to establish a local community of artists who want to use their work to contribute to the betterment of society,” says Ghosn. “Artists can talk about a world that is different,” says Ghosn, “and, through this message of hope, conquer people’s hearts.”
Other fine arts faculty members who took part in the event are Lee Frederix, Mona Jabbour, Janet Hakopian, Bettina Khoury Badr. Along with Zeina Badran they are already looking forward to next year’s SOS ART event.