Lebanese commemorate Beirut port explosion anniversary with statue, music

BEIRUT — An enormous iron sculpture was unveiled within the coronary heart of the Beirut port on Aug. 2, simply days earlier than the primary anniversary of the lethal explosion on Aug. 4, 2020.

The art work, dubbed “The Gesture” with the slogan “A Genie of Ashes,” was made out of the wreckage of the port blast that ripped by way of town final yr.

The statue is 25 meters excessive and weighs about 30 tons. Designed by Lebanese architect Nadim Karam, the sculpture took 9 months to be accomplished in collaboration with volunteers, professionals, specialists and personal firms.

“The artwork is a tribute to the victims of the explosion that took place in the Beirut port last year and changed the face of the city,” Karam advised Al-Monitor.

The explosion killed greater than 200 individuals and injured greater than 6,000 others, a few of whom suffered everlasting disabilities. Hundreds of households misplaced their houses.

The blast got here to additional exacerbate Lebanon’s financial collapse. However, the reality of what occurred on that day and what triggered the explosion of such a scale stays unknown. No official has been held accountable, as investigations and courtroom orders are consistently obstructed.

“The idea of the statue came to me after the explosion that changed our lives. I wanted to express what happened to our city, Beirut, and to myself and the people, so I took the initiative to design this statue,” Karam added.

“I wanted to immortalize the memory of the victims and do something for Beirut. The sculpture embodies the pain and anger through the explosion’s remnants that still bear the traces of the blast. It also represents hope and the will of the Lebanese to live and carry on in order to reach truth and justice,” he mentioned.

The sculpture sparked widespread controversy in Lebanon, drawing help from some who thought-about the thought a method of freedom of expression and artwork, but in addition drawing anger amongst different Lebanese who consider the explosion was not an informal occasion that needs to be celebrated in memorials and humanities.

Many of the blast victims denounced the thought of a memorial earlier than getting justice for an explosion that destroyed many of the capital and holding these accountable accountable.

“I am against the idea of erecting a sculpture, and I refused to go to the ceremony [of its inauguration]. Our cause is a national humanitarian issue that cannot be embodied in a statue, and our wounds have not yet healed,” a member of one of many households of the deceased victims advised Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity.

Mariana Fadoulian, the sister of Gaia Fudlian, 29, who died within the explosion, advised Al-Monitor, “The sculpture would have been a good idea if we had achieved justice. Now, it just sends the message that we are back on our feet and we got to the bottom of the truth, but we didn’t.”

“It is extremely difficult to embody the current situation. We are fighting to get to the truth and justice. The sculpture does not express our will that we still want accountability and justice. And why was it erected in the port in the first place, ground zero of the explosion, where the remnants of the victims continue to be scattered? We refuse any form of art while justice has not yet been served,” she added.

Many social activists who’ve referred to as for the reality about what triggered the Beirut port explosion consider the statue doesn’t serve its objective.

George Azar, an activist with Punishment Now — a preferred marketing campaign geared toward placing stress on the Lebanese judiciary to disclose the outcomes of the continuing probe into the blast — advised Al-Monitor, “People usually express their grief and memories in art. But the Aug. 4 crime is not over yet. Some people are still injured and dying. Some people have permanent disabilities. Even medical treatment is not done properly as a result of the crisis rocking the country and a city that is still destroyed.”

“This is just an attempt to turn expression into mere folklore and silence so that the Aug. 4 crime becomes just a memory and an attempt to cope with what happened, as if the crime is over, but it’s not. The sculpture is a kind of embellishment of the tragedy,” he added.

Some have gone so far as to accuse Karam of being a software within the fingers of the ruling class to cowl up the reality — a declare he denies.

“I was accused of getting in contact with the president and the caretaker prime minister. This is false. These statements are all lies,” Karam advised Al-Monitor.

Despite the backlash, it appears there isn’t a plan to dismantle and take away the statue.

Other artistic endeavors within the metropolis have evoked blended emotions however didn’t generate the identical uproar as the large sculpture. Beirut has seen a number of items of art work on the primary anniversary of the port explosion. The state additionally declared this to be a day of nationwide mourning.

Fadi Andraos, a Palestinian singer born in Beirut, launched on Aug. 2 a single titled “I Am Beirut” as a tribute to the victims and town. The music video options all of the names of the victims in opposition to a nonetheless photograph from the port. Andraos then reveals up singing from the port and accompanied by an orchestra.

The music obtained large criticism from many Lebanese who noticed it as dancing on the our bodies of the victims, because the filming of the video clip came about contained in the port.

Nisreen Fattouni, 24, advised Al-Monitor, “The idea of a music video at the crime scene is just hideous, unacceptable and inhuman, especially since Fadi was singing in it as if he was on a stage.”

“Everyone is trying to use the port massacre artistically to promote themselves and be in the spotlight. I did not see a single work of art that had a noble and meaningful message on the first anniversary of the blast,” she added.

Meanwhile, Andraos advised al-Ain News on Aug. 4, “Many thought the music video was filmed at the scene where the explosion took place, but it was actually done in the area of loading and unloading goods, which is a place where everyone is filming.”

Lebanese singer Amir Yazbeck sang the anthem of the Beirut Fire Brigade in a music video displaying the second firefighters obtained the cellphone name of a hearth on the port on the day of the port blast, their arrival there and their loss of life whereas placing out the blaze.

First Lt. Ali Najm, the pinnacle of the Beirut Fire Brigade’s Public Relations Division, advised Al-Monitor, “The music video was my idea, and it was produced by the Beirut Fire Brigade. Yazbeck performed the song.”

“The video was filmed with the participation of the families of the firefighter victims. They spoke of their last memories with the children before the latter died in the explosion. A few of these events were acted out in the video in tribute and in memory of the firefighters. We wanted to shed light on what happened through this video so that people do not forget our martyrs (victims), Najm said.”

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