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Bringing culture to your doorstep.

Summary: Following the trend of mobile cultural projects -- delivering books, theater and films to locations outside the capital -- Tiro Association for Arts has wheeled out their very own Arts Bus Caravan initiative, aiming to bring cultural activities to a variety of villages around Lebanon.

BEIRUT: Following the trend of mobile cultural projects -- delivering books, theater and films to locations outside the capital -- Tiro Association for Arts has wheeled out their very own Arts Bus Caravan initiative, aiming to bring cultural activities to a variety of villages around Lebanon.

Funded by UNIFIL, the graffiti-decorated bus has been converted into a mobile theater/cinema that TAA intends to use to target marginalized areas that currently lack art spaces -- providing workshops, screenings and an alternative space to exchange, provoke a response and unite through the arts.

"We bring together youth of different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, aiming to build a generation of artists and create safe spaces where people respect differences and can peacefully meet, play and work together, irrespective of background, gender or religious affiliation," TAA founder Kassem Istanbouli said.

"We have visited 20 villages so far -- about two villages per week -- and spent about two hours [in each].

"In each visit we did film screenings, theater performances and a drawing activity," he added.

"Some visits also included music performances." Founded in 2015 off the back of Istanbouli Theatre, TAA is a youth initiative dedicated to reviving the arts in areas or communities in Lebanon that lack those opportunities.

The film screenings include short films from Algeria, Italy, Jordan, Spain, Hong Kong, Egypt and Japan, ranging from animation to documentary and fiction.

There were also films from the Tourism Ministry promoting rural tourism and the importance of archeological sites and national museums in Lebanon.

"As for theater, Tiro Art Troupe did a playback theater performance in each village based on stories heard from the village inhabitants," Istanbouli added.

"The performances mainly tackled youth problems in the villages.

"The drawing activity was based on directing the youth of the villages to draw archeological and natural sites in their villages for others to see them in an exhibition that will take place later on," he said.

"The Tourism Ministry will use the drawings in a cultural calendar next year ... to promote the villages and hopefully bring in more tourists in the future." TAA hopes this project, alongside their other stationary ones, will allow relationships to form, as well as offering spaces where international artists can share their different levels of experience and knowledge with local artists.

"The Arts Bus Caravan will bring the work of the association to promote and celebrate arts to the population of Lebanon," Istanbouli said.

"For us it is important to create spaces where local artists can show their work to their community ... and also festivals where artists can share their experiences."

TAA is fond of reviving shuttered cultural spaces -- the reopened, then reclosed, Istanbouli Theatre, Al Hamra Cinema and Cinema Stars.

Despite the unstable and short-lived nature of these projects, the association is now working on reopening and renovating Tyre's Rivoli Cinema.

Rivoli Cinema has been closed for 29 years and TAA seeks to officially open it again to host the first edition of the Tiro Art Festival, which is set to be held Oct. 27-31.

"We are happy to complement our activities at Tyre, at the Rivoli cinema, with our activities at Nabatieh and now also at villages [with our bus]," Istanbouli said.

The forthcoming arts festival will present a mix of theater performances, music concerts and short films. In the meantime, the Arts Bus Caravan will persevere in its mobilization of culture, encouraged by the response. With the first cycle in the south complete, they will now drive north to areas near Saida, Beirut and Tripoli.

"People were very excited and whenever the bus arrived it was followed by children who wanted to take part in the activities, which were also attended by people from other age groups," he said.

"Young people and children participated enthusiastically in the drawing activities in particular.

"We've been doing it almost two months now and don't have a plan of stopping," Istanbouli said. "We want to keep going as long as possible."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Aug 30, 2018
Words:718
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