Ouzai, a once neglected neighbourhood near Beirut, is being transformed by passionate painters.
The project, named Ouzville, began when creator Ayyad Nasser and his team saw that too many areas of Lebanon had fallen into disrepair and crime since the end of the civil war.
The idea was to bring the sense of community back to one of Beirut’s most destitute districts by adding a touch of colour to rundown buildings.
“At first, the locals were afraid, the colours were very strong: red, green, yellow, pink - they didn’t like it or want it,” remembers Haytham Boukhood, a coordinator of the initiative. “At the beginning, nobody helped us, we did it alone.”
As the passage ways brightened with colour, more foreign and local street artists wanted to be involved.
An example of this is mural artist Marie-Jo Ayoub, who brings students from Beirut’s elite Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts to the spot.
Ouzai is a place where the aspiring creatives wouldn’t usually visit, having fears for their own personal safety.
“This shows the success of the project, kind of erasing the whole idea that the Lebanese have about this area - which is a dangerous area, a place that we would not want to go,” says Ayoub. “You see people painting and that’s it, you want to go and have fun with them.”
As well as professional artists, crowds of local children are enthusiastically grabbing buckets of paint and brushes to help decorate their neighbourhood.
Ouzai’s economy has also received a boost from the initiative, with visitors wanting to come and see the art, enjoy the seaview restaurants and even participate in the renovation works.
The team believes that this formula can work elsewhere in the country.
So far, murals and brightly-coloured buildings have popped up in Tripoli, Beirut, Mont Liban and Sur in the south. Organisers, however, have also expressed their ambition to develop the concept outside of Lebanon and into the wider region.
SEEN ON SOCIAL: COLOUR AND COMMUNITY
Nora posted this picture of her at Ouzai, saying that the project brought a spark of life to the neighbourhood.
And Maria celebrated being a part of the Ouzville project with this upload, adding that the artworks inspired joy in the residents.