Some argue that the level of academic experience, techniques and skills that the Syrian artists brought with them was much higher than what had previously existed in Lebanon. For example, the Syrians introduced the concept of the ‘dramaturge’ – a literary editor who liaises with playwrights and researches, edits and interprets scripts.
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Jaber concluded, “I think the most important achievement of the Metro was that it gave hope that something good can be done and that real art can be presented, which has brought life back to art in Lebanon and allowed theatres to compete with cinemas. We dreamed of creating an oasis in a city full of problems, exploiting the margins of freedom that the city has. This is in addition to restoring to the art makers their confidence in the audience and allowing them to take chances and produce art based on revenues. This audience will find its way to true art in a scene that is full of many other colours.”
Organizers of the Byblos International Festival yielded to pressure from church officials, politicians and online groups who accused the locally grown and internationally acclaimed band Mashrou’ Leila of dishonouring Christian symbols and promoting homosexuality. Following several threats of violence, the organizers announced on 30 July that the show scheduled for 9 August would be cancelled to ‘prevent bloodshed and maintain security and stability’.
The negotiations come at a highly sensitive time in the region, with Iran and the US facing off in the Gulf and escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed armed group and political party Hezbollah. On 19 June, Israel organized its largest military drill in years, with thousands of army, navy and air force troops simulating a potential conflict with Hezbollah.
Yet, politics is only one of the various aspects framing Lebanon’s museum culture. A quick overview of the existing landscape highlights the importance of private initiatives and a significant reliance of cultural heritage preservation on the goodwill of a few wealthy families and individuals. This contrasts with the alleged absence of the state in the field of culture, although the national museum of Beirut has attained international recognition, with, for instance, its participation in April 2018 in the fourth edition of the Global Museum Leaders Colloquium, hosted by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
With Lebanon hosting well over a million refugees, Labaki said that the sights of begging street children compelled her to produce a film about their daily reality. Motivated to expose their ordeal, Labaki spent four years building relationships with Beirut’s most marginalized families. On her journey, she saw the dark confines where refugees and undocumented persons languish.
Civil marriage is already legal in Lebanon because of a loophole inherited from the French law, which allows people who are not affiliated with a sect to get a civil marriage. Among the dozens of Lebanese couples who tied the knot this way, the majority never had their certificate validated by the authorities, making their marriage unrecognized under Lebanese law and the children born from it unrecognized under any law. Therefore, they have no status.
30 per cent of the Lebanese population (1.5 million people) live on less than $4 per day, or $120 per month, and about 300,000 people live on less than $2.5 per day, which is insufficient to meet their basic food needs. Unemployment rates have remained steady, rising from 6.2 per cent in 2016 to 6.3 per cent in 2017, with an average of 7.56 per cent from 1991 until 2017. However, inflation stood at 3.17 per cent in January 2019, with the price of food and non-alcoholic drinks rising faster than other consumer goods.
t is also hard to see what is next for Hezbollah, either in Lebanon or the rest of the region, as the Syrian war grinds on. Even if it does end soon, Israel is still across the Lebanese border, gunning for a final showdown with its longtime enemy. If that happens, it is difficult to know how Hezbollah will respond, although it might get more assistance from its allies, which it has loyally supported for years.
Pressure is heavy on Al Hassan’s shoulders, as she will have to manage not only an important and risky ministry in a region always shaken up by war and conflicts, but to prove that as a woman, she can do it as well as any male counterpart. Al Hassan’s example and lead could change the face of female political representation in Lebanon. It is a lot of pressure to handle, but she seems prepared for the challenge.