In October 2021 I was invited by Lina Ghaibeh to hold a lecture to graphic design students about drawing and comics. I was and am still honored by this opportunity.
I met Lina in Lyon as we both were invited to Lyon BD, and it was really easy to talk with her about the difficulties of organizing comics festivals and events in countries that do not really have an appreciation of comics as an artform, and also about teaching comics. We both love teaching. 🙂 Before my visit, we talked a lot about the situation in Beirut, which is extra difficult: Covid came upon a grief financial and political crisis, and the illegally stored ammonium nitrate exploded in the port of Beirut on 4 Aug 2020. It killed many people and destroyed culturally important parts of the city. I interviewed Lina for The Comics Journal, and she speaks about how they decided to eventually organize a festival in this situation, the role of art in hardship, the history and present of Arab comics, and the work and goals of the Arab Comics Initiative at the American University of Beirut. I learned a lot from this discussion, which was recorded in three sittings. Here is a link.
When I arrived at Beirut, I was really excited about being there and being present at the opening of the comprehensive, extensive, and beautiful exhibition of contemporary Arab comics – with works exhibitied from ten countries. The exhibition was curated by Lina Ghaibeh and George Khoury JAD. At the same time, I was humbled by knowing that the fact that my hotel has electricity is a privilege, as that the government provides only around 3 hours of electricity a day, and people have to use generators or candles. I walked a lot around the city and I saw the scars left by the Civil War (1975-1990) and the Revolution in 2019 and the Explosion, I saw street art everywhere, and I saw and talked to really kind people. This has been an experience of a lifetime.
If you are interested, here is my report on the events and exhibitions of the Beirut Comics Art Festival, published on The Comics Journal. I really enjoyed the drawn concerts, the programs at various locations in the city, and the exhibitions that showed political engagement, concern, and power. In the report, I made mini interviews with organizers and artists.
And of course I also talked at the American University of Beirut. It went okay. I took many pictures by phone and by my beloved analog camera (those in the beginning of this post were taken by my Minolta x700). If you want to see more, visit my blog, please.