If you are an Artist in Lebanon, that doesn’t mean much… does it? Oh, wait, it might mean that you’re an outlaw that dresses weirdly!
Because we had enough of this stereotype, of this painful truth, of the fact that being an artist can only be a hobby and not a mission by itself, we have decided otherwise. Actually VAPA, has decided otherwise.
What and When
You might have not heard of us before but from this moment on you will hear a lot. VAPA, the Visual and Performing Arts Association, was officially founded in August 2009 by artists Kiki Bokassa and Lucien Bourjeily along with LAU student in finance, Elias Geday. We pride on being an independent and a non profitable organization. Vapa’s home is the roof over our heads, it”s a pretty warm and welcoming roof, where all of you are welcomed.
VAPA is boundless, with capital letters.
We embrace everyone under one roof. All ages, all nationalities, all social backgrounds. We really don’t care if you are black, white, red or yellow. And we honestly don’t care what religion you believe in. So, when you step into the VAPA world, get ready to leave everything but ARTS behind.
Because we at VAPA have a mission. It is true that Art for Art is valuable, but Art for a noble cause has a greater purpose. That is why we aim at enriching knowledge and raise awareness on basic social issues that regard human rights, social exclusion, conflict resolution and the environment through artistic and cultural activities. That is in addition to helping artists promote their work and improve the conditions of their rights in Lebanon.
But of course, and like any other arts center, we aim at nourishing and developing artistic talents.
Roof 68 – The name
But are we just a thought? Of course not. We have headquarters! Located in a 200 year old building in the heart of Ashrafieh, VAPA’s house is called “Roof 68”. Don’t think a lot, we are creative people, but to come up with this name we didn’t have to pull a magician’s trick! We just happen to be located on one of the very few streets that have preserved their number plate “68”. And well, we are on a roof, sooo… “Roof 68” was indeed the easy part.
Roof 68 – The use
This venue is meant for artists and non artists alike offering an indoor space as well as an outdoor terrace. It hosts several artistic workshops for the talented and the less talented and is considered for many of our visitors a second home. At roof 68 we also host every Wednesday a thematic set up including blind dinners, poetry nights and other interactive events. During summer, the roof hosts the play “mitlna metlak”. No matter what I say about Roof 68, I would be subjective, that’s why I invite each one of you to come and experience it. Our doors are always open.
The workshops that we offer are various and they include: Finger painting and contemporary painting, Photography, Digital Illustration, Creative Writing, Graffiti, Digital Film making, Script Writing, Theater, Music Composing and Singing.
Participation and Involvement
Simply offering workshops would make us just another venue that suggests what it already has and uses interactive media just to promote it. The latest idea is to get people involved in the planning phase of the workshops. This is to avoid enforcing workshops upon people by creating and adapting these workshops based on the needs and requests. The workshop page on our blog does this exact role; which is to suggest what we are thinking of, and request suggestions and feedback which is something lacking in Lebanon.
Affiliation with ImproBeirut
VAPA’s performing arts also entail a strategic affiliation with ImproBeirut founded in 2008 by filmmaker and director Lucien Bou Rjeily. This initiative came to crown Lucien’s efforts in the field of encouraging the art of spontaneous acting and scriptless performance. Indeed, ImproBeirut was behind the first professional improvisational theater shows in Lebanon and the Middle East. This is an exceptional way of expression that I personally tried and highly encourage you to try. At this stage, we have already invited two improvisation theater artists from Amsterdam whom have held an “impro” workshop of 4 days at Monot.
I know how I feel when seeing a foreign worker being locked up in a room or made to work 24/7! I hope you guys feel the same. If you don’t, VAPA helped conceptualize a full awareness campaign on the subject just for you. The campaign aims at showing the Lebanese and Arab society that foreign housekeeprs are human beings that have the same rights as their bosses, slash “owners”. Our society basically links European culture to colonialism therefore it is normal to consider ourselves superior to other cultures in poorer countries. In the past fifty years, the colonialist mentality hasn’t disappeared, it has just transferred from Africa and the Far East to Lebanon. The first step in fighting this is through awareness and education, but what we practically are trying to do is to provide maids the right for a weekly day off….this is where the name of the campaign comes from: “24/7”!
On another level, VAPA believes in sharing with the public. We can always keep our artistic work to ourselves but sharing them with the wider public would actually encourage people with hidden talents to embark on their own artistic journey.
In this line, we have decided to annex to our “Roof 68” an exhibition area called “Ground 68”. Yes you have guessed it. The area is located on the ground floor of the “Roof 68” building thus the name! It is home to the exhibition of all our artistic work, from photographs to paintings or any other form of art objects that we produce or any other artist like to display.
Ground 68 Reach
However, just like Roof 68, Ground 68 has soon transformed into a multi use facility. We started receiving international artists desiring to exhibit their artistic work and soon the Ground transformed into the artist’s temporary residency in Lebanon. Not only this is a true honor for us, it is indeed marking the place with the real fingerprints of renowned artists. In fact, soon Ground 68 will be hosting “The House of Frida” event, whereby we will be displaying artistic work inspired by world famous painter Frida Kahlo including sketches, pictures, digital prints and texts.
In parallel to all our artistic workshops and active exhibition portfolio and in compliance with our mission, we have committed our arts to better serve the Lebanese society. As we have already mentioned, we believe in endorsing rightful causes and encouraging the involvement of neglected social segments all through arts. In this line, we have already initiated several projects in collaboration of Lebanese ministries, the Italian Cooperation Agency in Lebanon and fellow NGOs.
Al Fanar Art Therapy “finger-Painting” Workshop
One of these projects was called Al Fanar Art Therapy “finger-painting” Workshop. Al Fanar hospital is a psychiatric hospital in south Lebanon and we have offered about 100 of its patients a one day workshop inciting them to participate in an outdoor finger-painting session which has helped them bond with each other and express themselves through colors, shapes and free drawing. The success and prideful outcome of this project has led us to renew the experience on an annual basis.
Views from within prison bars
Another VAPA project was Autograff which aimed at promoting human rights while spreading the culture of cinematography and shedding light on the invisible and neglected segments of the Lebanese society. The main purpose of this workshop was to contribute in the reintegration of male and female prisoners currently detained in Lebanese prisons. What VAPA was offering were Graffiti workshops in each of the 12 subject prisons followed by an exhibition of the prisoners’ artworks. You had to be there to believe your eyes! It was incredibly inspirational, although in the least expected of places. But since VAPA always sees a ray of light in the most dark of situations, we have offered another valuable project for the inmates Roumye Juvenile Prison and some of the adult inmates who recently came out of jail.
General Social Benefit
Not only that. Our artistic workshops are helping many individuals such as those who have special needs, under age people, people that don’t have school or university degrees and people with different disabilities to get job opportunities of all genres which remain one of the very prideful achievements VAPA has managed to attain.
But enough with VAPA right? Now you know what we do, and what we aim for. You know who we are and what we stand for. And mostly, you know what we fight for. We believe that Art can carry out noble messages and try to act as a vehicle to those messages with the best tools we have. Whether a visual artist, a performing artist, or any other sort of artist, VAPA is your home; so don’t hesitate to knock at any time.
Vapa is pursuing its mission;many other activities and projects have been implemented since and some are on the way of seeing the light.
We thank each and everyone for their interest and support! Stay tuned..