Ali Rafei, Tripoli's Street Art Ninja

Guilty as charged - I probably allocate most Bananapook features to street art. I think it's the most courageous form of the visual arts. On that note, I present to you Ali Rafei, a street artist from our one and only Tripoli. 

Ali's works are distributed between Tripoli and Beirut, the former which he calls home, the latter the capital which he frequents with a spray can and a purpose.

Ali worked with Aramex for the past few years. He now lives in Leeds, where he attends graduate school for a degree in advertising.

His street work ranges from portraiture to stencils to calligraphy, with the occasional wheat-paste.

Text reads "Lebanon"
Often times, Ali invests his time and effort into a work only to have it removed by offended viewers (i.e. government folks). After all, you can't have a soldier wear an "I love corruption" t-shirt smack in the middle of Hamra.

"I love corruption"

Government officials painted over the corruption soldier right after Ali executed it. I can only imagine how much would get done if they were this immediate with other concerns..

"Doesn't it bother you when your works are painted over?" I asked Ali. It was beyond my comprehension why one would put so much time into something so short-lived, something that could last mere minutes before being wiped out.

In response, he told me that after he executes his work - he's totally detached; he no longer owns his pieces. If a work was painted over, it was because the viewer was offended - they got the message. Ultimately, censorship is a compliment. 

Naturally, I was surprised. It was the first time I heard an artist boldly say that they can become 'detached' from their works. I suppose if you're going to take risks with your work, then you can only prepare yourself for the consequences. In street art, emotional attachment is a barrier - and those who cling to their art with an umbilical cord should probably stick to the shelter of their private studios. 

Quote from a Rumi poem

Notice how he uses his environment as a tool - adapting his works to his surroundings rather than the other way around. It's a feature I really enjoy in his work, and is a characteristic of the best of street artists.

The stark shift between portraiture and calligraphy is admirable. The designs don't overwhelm the text message.

Joint work between Ali and fellow street artists Yazan and Zepha
"Cheyef 7alak" is a Lebanese colloquial phrase that roughly translates to "got a big ego?"

We can only hope for Ali's return from Leeds. Needless to say, this city is lacking purposeful street artists. 

Create, appreciate,



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