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Arofish in South Lebanon

September 10, 2006

Following up on his trip to Beirut two weeks ago, Arofish traveled through Aita al-Shaab, South Lebanon this week and set up an interactive mural for residents of the city. Barely two kilometers from the Israel-Lebanon border, Aita al-Shaab was hit hard by Israeli bombing, and Arofish traveled there to work with the Samidoun network, a grassroots organization that is organizing much of the relief work in and around Beirut. He writes:

Work was sporadic, so, between unloading water bottles off trucks and making up food parcels, I thought up something for the local kids. A lot of people in NGO/activist circles are talking about “art therapy” these days. To me the best therapy can sometimes be to fucking hit out at something.

After getting the OK I made some big stencils of Bush, Blair, Condi Rice and Ehud Olmert, drawing them onto cartoon animal bodies, as a common form of insult here is to call someone an animal. I sprayed them at night on the smashed wall I’d been given in the town square, as I hoped that the kids would be in bed and that what I had planned for the next day would be a surprise. Half way through the first piece I became aware that about 40 people, all ages, were standing right behind me in a tight group, glaring intently at the wall. Others looked on from the shadows further away. “Not much pressure, then,” I thought, peeling the stencil off the wall to a dumb silence. Then, after a few seconds and to my inexpressible relief, they very clearly started to “get it”.
Voices swelled in number and volume as they excitedly pointed out to one another what it was all about. Laughter burst out up and down the line. Someone found a chair for me to stand on to spray the high bits, supported my back with his hand. Little kids clustered around me and were barked back out of my way by the men. It was pitch dark now so one guy shone his car headlights on the wall so I could see better. Afterwards I gave out some big marker pens. People wrote the characters’ names in Arabic and a variety of other messages and slogans. We threw a tarpaulin over and left it till the morning.
Next day we fetched buckets full of paint-filled water balloons and told the 30-or-so local kids that behind the tarp were some of the people who’d caused all the damage. They knew all the names; they didn’t need telling. The pictures tell the rest, but I wish they could capture the noise. Condi got the worst of it, by far, and you can make of that what you will.

His full account with photos is here. See also his account of painting in Beirut two weeks back. Related: Visual Resistance’s interview with Arofish.

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