Art is an evolutionary act. Through art, we can express ourselves and send messages in the most talented way. What is beyond beautiful is the street-art graffiti. It is one of the tools that may not change the world but spread hope at least among the people. And that’s what the Kabbani brothers have done in Lebanon.
Omar and Mohamed Kabbani are identical twins, and with their four hands, they have revived Lebanese culture through their prolific artwork and music. As a brotherly team, they feel their relationship helped their work expands at a faster rate. Born to an artistic mother, the love of art was a natural gift for the duo.
The Kabbani brothers grew up in the ambiance of destruction and devastation of the Lebanese Civil War. Growing up in such a dangerous period, with various fighting militias using graffiti to tag walls, had an undeniable influence on their work. The brothers used to paint the streets at 4 am so that people wake up to an exceptional graffiti that showed up overnight as if it was magic.
In 2001, they launched Ashekman, a street-crew, to give a name to their art. Their artwork mainly features Arabic calligraphy, their way of paying respect to the region and its culture. The artistic duo studied design and Arabic calligraphy at the Lebanese American University of Beirut, and they developed their talent under the training of the master calligrapher Ali Assi.
Culturally rich and diverse, Lebanon is home to some of the notable musicians and artists in the world. The Kabbani brothers desired to show the world the greatness of our country by replacing the war painting by their dazzling artwork. The faces of great Lebanese artists, such as Feyrouz, Sabah, and Wadih Al-Safi, cover the walls of the streets, fulfilling the duo’s desire.
Aside from changing the face of Beirut and other Lebanese cities, the duo balances their art with rap and hip-hop. They dropped an album in 2011 called Ashekmanphobia, and they didn’t fail to include high-quality Middle-Eastern raps and beats and raps. In addition to that, the brothers own a clothing brand that consists of Middle-Eastern themed designs, all made using premium garments and prints.
In response to the negative image portrayed about the Middle East, the Kabbani brothers wanted to create a message conveying that we are a region of peace, and they decided to do so through their art. That message carried the name of Operation Salam (Peace Operation), which took them a planning and working phase of 3 years, over a 3-week course, and 10 hours per day.
The Kabbani brothers chose Tripoli as a host for their operation because of the city’s dark past and the negative thoughts people have about it. The operation took place in the infamous Syrian Street that had witnessed the intense fighting of Jabal Mehssen and Beb el Tebbeneh.
They roamed to the rooftops and started painting them with bright pistachio green to spell out Salam, which translates to peace. With the help of 58 residents, the artistic duo created a masterpiece spanning 85 structures across a 1.3-kilometer area!
In addition to being visible from the sky, the used green paint provides waterproof coverings for the roofs and helps cool the buildings during the summer heat.
With pictures of the project going viral, international news organizations as CNN talked about the Kabbani brothers, bringing further their name to fame. Eventually, their work crossed the Lebanese frontiers. Ashekman expanded to the UAE and the brothers have been working between Beirut and Dubai since then. Other than that and their clothing brand, they work on quite a few commercial projects in the city too.
Ashekman is an example of the hidden talents in our society. The Kabbani brothers are a perfect example that individual initiatives and acts can make a positive change in our country. Through hard work and persistence, Lebanon will keep rising back from the ashes. Through street art, music, and sports, we can deliver a steady message to the world that Lebanon is home for evolvement, love, and peace.