Beirut is a city of stairways. You find them in neighbourhoods across the city, connecting one street to another, or small hills to the street level. Most times the staircases are concrete-grey or stone charcoal, with only a few random tufts of grass sprouting up from their cracks. Lately though, many of them have started to change appearance. A group that calls themselves Dizhayners has started to leave their colourful imprints on the stairs. Mashallah News talked to them about their paint-ups of the city.
Hello Dizhayners, who are you?
We’re a group of mostly LAU design graduates, but also some joining friends and family members, who have teamed up to paint particular locations – mostly stairs – around Beirut. The aim is to spread colour and energy throughout the streets of the city. What started the project was us being inspired by other similar initiatives around the world, and we wanted to do something in our own neighbourhoods.
“The aim is to spread colour and energy throughout the streets of the city.”
What made you choose working on stairs?
In Beirut, the stairs are spread across the city. We select them according to where they are, if we can get the permission to paint them or not, and if the community and residents in the area want us to paint them. We often get suggestions on locations and continue from there.
How do you work – do you make sure you’re allowed to paint beforehand?
We always ask for permission from the municipalities before starting. Also, a week before, we ask the neighbouring residents if they’re fine with it. We show them pictures of mock-ups that we’ve done and samples of the design or theme we will do, to see if they accept and encourage it. We don’t want to just show up and paint in someone’s neighbourhood, and then have them upset or against it. We’re doing this for them too, not just for us.
What have people’s reactions been?
We’ve had great reactions – people have been positive and told us that they appreciate the efforts and time we’re putting into making the areas more colourful places. They say that, visually, they’ve become nicer to look at and to live in. We also get their opinions on designs and colour choices, which is great.
Do you see your project as part of Beirut’s larger street art culture?
Yes, it’s definitely part of a larger urban culture that’s growing in Lebanon. There are so many artists, architects and others who have created ways to make Beirut and the rest of the country a better and brighter place to live in. Street artists have become more accepted and acknowledged lately, and their work is being more appraised. This is because of their great forms of expressions, which is contributing to giving Beirut a new and fresh look.
There are so many artists, architects and others who have created ways to make Beirut and the rest of the country a better and brighter place to live in.
Photos Nadim Kamel and Jenny Gustaffson.