Street art based ‘Ouzville’ project brings color to rundown Beirut suburb

Source:AFP Published: 2017/8/28 18:03:40

Seen from the highway out of Lebanon's capital Beirut, the Ouzai neighborhood is a jumble of haphazard construction, but venture inside and its low-slung buildings transform into street art canvases.

Artists taking part in the "Ouzville" project have painted walls in brilliant blues, reds, yellows and greens, adorning others with enormous murals, doodles and cartoon characters.

The project is a breath of fresh air for Ouzai, a rundown and largely informal neighborhood on the Mediterranean coast south of Beirut.

Ayad Nasser, the property developer behind the Ouzville project, was born in Ouzai in 1970 but moved overseas during Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

Nasser launched his project 18 months ago, inviting Lebanese and international street artists to beautify parts of Beirut - Ouzai in particular.

"I felt that the most abandoned area in Lebanon is Ouzai," Nasser said in English.

"It's been 40 years that nobody is taking care of it: not the government, not the local parties, not even the local peoples."

He worked with Ouzai residents to identify streets and buildings to be brightened up with bursts of color.

Around 140 buildings have now been painted, with a handful done by the residents themselves.

From the street below her first-storey home, Jumana Yunis can be seen preparing green beans for lunch, framed by a large window in the bright yellow outer wall of her building. 

Below the window is a large mural of a girl's face, rendered in serene shades of turquoise and royal blue.

At 38, Yunis has spent her whole life in Ouzai and is raising her four children in the home where she was born.

For her, the Ouzville project has "brought joy" to a neighborhood she loves.

"You're happy when you go outside and see the colors, even if sometimes it's strange. You feel that this is a new neighborhood," she told AFP.

Nasser said part of the project's goal is to "break the stereotype" of Ouzai, which many in Lebanon see as a slum to be avoided.

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