The arteries of Lebanon are filled with graffiti and street art. Before it earned the respect and international recognition conferred by the art market, this art form was – and in many circles still is – considered to be vandalism.
Street art, in the words of Lebanese street artist Ali Rafei, “invaded private and public property.”
Like Yazan, Phat2, Zepha or Ashekman, Rafei is a recognized member of the country’s street art scene. Most of his work can be seen in the Ras Beirut neighborhood, and in the northern city of Tripoli.
He first began leaving his mark on urban fabric in 2010. Then in 2012 Rafei decided to enroll in the University of Leeds’s MA program in advertising.
He performed many maneuvers to stay in the U.K. but that didn’t work out. He’s been back in Lebanon since the beginning of the year.
Rafei’s street art veers from freehand portraiture to Arabic calligraphy to stencil work.
His most-recent stencil art can be seen off Hamra, on Abdel Aziz Street.
It portrays a man in a suit holding a balloon on which is written “Ana” (“Me” in Arabic). Next to the adult a child is straining to pop his balloon.
As Rafei explained, this work is a reflection on egoism. “I did it in a risky place,” he said.
“There is a message and I wanted it to be exposed. I didn’t want it to be hidden.”
This piece captured the attention of a nearby security guard, who kept asking Rafei and his friend what the point of the gesture was and why they were doing it.