Wednesday, December 26, 2012

For a Merry Accessible Christmas

Old magazines, used bottles, tins, and many newspapers were in piles a few weeks before Christmas. 247square aimed at transforming what was once trash to joyful Christmas decorations.

straws wraps, plastic bottles, and leftover wool
straws wraps and bottle labels are transformed into the above decorations

The idea behind it was to reflect on the birth (and life) of Jesus to produce decorations that are within that spirit. The message is one of love and peace regardless of class, ethnicity, and even religion. 
So we wanted to make the decorations as accessible as we can to the public, and made everything out of recycled materials to show how the beautiful can come out of common daily material.

a flower out of plastic bottles

We took some of those decorations indoors, mainly at AUB Bechtel Building and Cafe Ta Marbouta. The rest of the decorations were plastered around the streets of Hamra. 

247square Christmas decorations at Ta2 Marbouta

Unfortunately, for whatever unbeknownst reason, the decorations disappeared the next day. Within less than 24 hours, they were gone. Who and why, we do not know, but the joy in the voice of the passerby’s who were complimenting the project was more than enough to make our project worthwhile.

boxes, newspapers | decorations around Hamra, Beirut

tins (cocacola, mirenda, pepsi, sevenup) | decorations around Hamra, Beirut

magazines, old books and papers | decorations around Hamra, Beirut

Merry Christmas everyone

Project Organizer: Anastasia Matar
Project Members:  
research and ideas: Anastasia Matar, Alaa Kabalan 
sketching and experimentation: Saba Sadr, AyaKrisht, Anastasia Matar, Alaa Kabalan, helped by Elizabeth Matar, Zeina Shaaban, Maria Mouteirek, Layla Smaili 
mass productions: Alaa Kabalan, Shahine Kabalan, Wafaa Safi, Ramy Kabalan, Anastasia Matar, Saba Sadr, Aya Krisht, Zeina Shaaban.
finalizing and hanging: Alaa Kabalan, Saba Sadr, Zeina Shaaban, Anastasia Matar

A wonderful shoutout to the glorious Majida el-Roumi, whose music we used in our video, for her retweeting our Christmas sentiments.

Monday, December 10, 2012

EXHIBITION | Rafic Saab "Sugar-Quoted Mix" | December 2012

We set out on Friday afternoon amid a heavy downpour of rain to be the first ones at the much-awaited opening of designer/illustrator Rafic Saab’s exhibition, Sugar-Quoted Mix. Entering the A Fish In Sea exhibition space, our damp clothes and the rainstorm outside are soon forgotten as we are drawn into the amalgam of color and quotes, women and monsters, humor and gore.

Humorous takes on familiar Arabic sayings, a wailing monster and a fan-art piece based on Fouad Mezher’s “The Educator” are just some of the different directions Rafic’s work takes

As we move from one piece to another we are struck by the stunning variety of not only the subject matter, but also Rafic’s ever-evolving approaches to his work and the different stories behind them. A seductive girl in tight leather with devil horns and tail is the outcome of Rafic getting carried away with what started out as a simple sketch for a bet. The movie Pan’s Labyrinth is the inspiration behind a fabulously intricate inked illustration featuring demons and eyeballs. Other works come to life under Rafic’s fingertips when he is afflicted by sleeplessness or utter boredom.

A personal favorite of Rafic’s, this is an example of a completely spontaneous illustration that simply unfolded on the paper as he worked
A section of the exhibition is devoted to the collection of Rafic’s highly entertaining interpretations of vernacular Arabic sayings, each more fun than the last. “This is my favorite,” Rafic tells us, pointing to his depiction of  “الحياة جزرة”.

Rafic poses in front of his collection of illustrated vernacular sayings
Like much of his work, this particular collection wasn’t something Rafic had planned. “It started with a simple sketch, I said okay, let’s add a caption and then somehow it became a series,” he explains.

Mother’s and Father’s day cards are an extension of Rafic’s vernacular sayings collection
After we’ve had a good turn around the exhibition space and taken our time absorbing the captivating array of work, we sit down with Rafic to ask him a little more about how he works.

Hanging out with Rafic is never a dull experience
On the subject of his inspiration, Rafic draws a clear line between commissioned and non-commissioned work. “The thing is, clients have no idea what they want,” he says before going on to describe the process of finding out exactly who a character is before he can draw them.

Our chat with Rafic is punctuated with jokes, laughter and his usual mischievous behavior 
When it comes to more personal work he can be inspired by anything, from movies to music (the likes of Chimera and The Nine Inch Nails, “absolutely nothing classical”) to his very surroundings. “I doodle everywhere, on anything, with anything,” he tells us, something that is evident from the group of sketches he’s put up in one section of the exhibition.

For every flowered background there is a bloody counterpart – Rafic’s subjects vary greatly and manifest his different moods
“I usually sketch when I can’t sleep,” Rafic reflects. “Or when I’m going through a bad situation, I try to channel my emotions into my work rather than do something destructive. Then when I look back at a certain piece and remember what I was going through at the time, I can say it turned out great.”

Rafic reflects on the inspirations behind his work
Some of the work is purely digital while others begin as pencil sketches; Rafic enjoys both approaches. But no matter how they start out or how far he takes them, whether they remain simple pencil drawing or evolve into fully rendered illustrations, each piece is a unique creation that drips with nuance (and/or blood) and speaks of the inner workings of Rafic’s personality.

Friends and visitors leave comments and doodles for Rafic
Article & interview: Aya Krisht
Photography: Saba Sadr

Friday, October 26, 2012


I've always thought of Adha as a day of celebration, but of what? All I have ever thought of were the fireworks and the maamoul, the gorgeous date cookies of the occasion.

The 247square team met up and threw random ideas to celebrate the essence of this Eid. We wanted to engage people in acts of gratefulness, through finding the many things they should be grateful for. Adha's core is all about sacrifice. It is not about the facades of sacrificing a sheep or some money in the name of this day. The sacrifice in its true form comes at all times, is not limited to this day, and most importantly, is not forced upon you by traditions you might not fully understand.

Maybe one true meaning we might all still celebrate during this day and many other occasions is familial bonds. Many of us barely see our family all year long, but many do see them on such occasions.

We take our family members for granted. It is my mom’s job to get me medicine when I am sick. It is such a casual thing for my dad to skip his early sleep to pick me up when I am late and I have no ride back home. It is my little brother’s duty to get me my bag that is a few inches away from me yet a few meters away from him. And it is my sister’s fault if she went to bed early. I do not have to lower my voice so that she enjoys her sleep.

Now, that doesn’t sound right. And to specify a day to say thank you to your family and friends and beloved ones for being who they are is not enough. But it is a start. If you celebrate one’s birthday on one day, does not mean you were unhappy of his existence the rest of the year (or I would like to assume so at least when it is my birthday). Celebrating Adha should be our way to step back, and look around at all the things being done for us, with no expectation of a return.

I am the last one to speak of this. But I can be among the first to actually do what I am speaking of. The team of 247 square finally decided to go for something simple this time. We designed a series of patterns inspired by Adha, printed them on cards, and distributed them in many sweets places, cafes and other areas around Beirut and other regions in Lebanon so that anybody can go pick a free card – or 10 – and write a small thank you note to someone who sacrificed for you. It might sound easy, even useless. Though, as cheesy as this may sound, saying thank you or I love you, might actually be the hardest. And once said, it should become easier in words and hopefully in practice too.

Happy and Blessed Adha to you all.

written by Alaa Kabalan
edited by Zeina Shaaban

designers on this project
Anastasia Matar, Zeina Shaaban, Izzat Kreidieh, Layla Smaili, Salwa Faour and Alaa Kabalan

Thursday, September 6, 2012

CELEBRATING | #3September2012 in Abey, Lebanon

Sunday, September 2nd, 247 square team is up at seven in the morning. On our way to Abey, as we are listening to blasting music in the blue honda, we start spotting the posters for the event. Then banners. Then even bigger banners.

Banners in context "WE ARE FREE" and "أنا حرّ"
Banner in context "I AM BEAUTIFUL"
By the time we reach Abey, we are having delicious man'ousheh and watching beautiful surroundings. Children dressed in white and wearing caps came from different areas of Lebanon to take part in the event. They sit with their little blue caps and listen to the speeches about the hazards of smoking. Representatives of the organizers of the event got up and gave a word about why this meant to them. This included the Red Cross, the president of the municipality of Abey, the president of Green Hand, an environmental, cultural and social NGO, as well as representatives of “women’s spring” the online magazine, and “Say no to Violence against Women”.

President of the municipality of Abey giving a speech
Representative of Women's spring | Online TV and magazine giving a speech
After a while, the kids are called to gather and get on their bicycles to begin the race. Excitement is clear on their faces. Non-kids stood next to the little ones and posed for pictures, holding up signs that had some of the anti-smoking campaign mottos on them "I am beautiful" and "Everybody likes me."

A child holding up the "I AM BEAUTIFUL" slogan

A child holding up the "EVERYBODY LIKES ME" slogan
Moving away from the typical overused smoking-is-harmful campaigns, the campaign’s mottos satirically shed light more on what will come into effect after September the third, using only the tag line to link it to smoking. So, hierarchy wise, you will have “after September the third, I am free” and the tagline brings in why we are free “second hand smoking is very harmful especially to your loved ones”. Or “after September the third, I am beautiful” with the tagline being “smoking dramatically increases wrinkles and aging.”

Banners in context "I Am Beautiful | Everybody Likes Me | We Are Free | أنا حلوة | أنا حرّ | الكلّ بحبّني | صحتي حديد"

Banners in context "We Are Free | الكلّ بحبّني"
And the now-free children were invited, after the bike-a-thon and other activities administered by Right to Play, to come and write their thoughts about smoking on a banner that spread over five meters on the floor after they were done with their bike race. So they gathered, held up their pens then wrote "No to smoking", "We are smoke-free" and such expressions with pens of all colors.

Children participating in the bike race

Children playing with the Right to Play Parachute
Children playing with the Right to Play Parachute

Writing thoughts on smoking

Packed with many pictures and a lot of fun, we are on the move, heading back to beirut. We were seven people sitting in one car. so the ride was loud, fun, not void of complaints about injured limbs and blasting music, and surely not void of laughter. We make a stop at the matte factory to have a milk matte pause. The drink was tasty, the pause refreshing. Then we moved on to our next stop.

247square team members present: (left to right)
alaa kabalan | azza hajjar | izzat kreidieh | layla smaili | zeina shaaban | anastasia matar

to be continued.
check the images here.


co-written with azza hajjar

Sunday, August 26, 2012

EXHIBITION | Fouad Mezher "Superheroes and Monkeys" | July 2012

Step into a realm like no other; one of tightly-dressed-sharp-featured-people- playing superheroes, fluffy monkeys, and unexpectedly evil animals.

Walking into Fouad Mezher’s exhibition “superheroes and monkeys”, you get a strange feeling, as if several movies were playing at the same time, and their different soundtracks are bombarding you, fusing into one another. Only when you focus in one direction of the large exhibition space does it seem to you that the music gets clearer.

from the children's book "The Adventures of the Little Monkey"

If you look to the right, to “The Adventures of the Little Monkey”, you can almost hear the soundtrack “pure imagination” from Willy Wonka. Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination! And you can’t help but be drawn closer and closer to those drawings, in a hopeful attempt to get a feel of this monkey’s existence, and maybe, just maybe, accompany him on his adventure, even if for a few moments, in your imagination.

Fouad Mezher in the exhibition in front of his sketches

However, if you look to the left and stare at the so-called sketches, most of which are of evil animals, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s song “the beauty underneath” pops up in your head, and lingers! When the dark unfolds its wings, do you sense the strangest things, things no one could ever guess, things mere words cannot express! Even when his illustrations instill horror and dismay in your soul, you can’t help but be bewitched by their beauty underneath.

The 25-year-old illustrator, animator and designer chose to showcase a collection of both personal and commercial illustrations. He displayed them according to four categories: comics, kid's books, collected works and (so-called) sketches.

Fouad Mezher on sketching

Why so-called sketches? Because what is a sketch to Fouad, is a final product to others in his field. As for amateurs, his sketches are more like chef-d’oeuvres. However, Fouad is too humble to call them anything more than sketches, as “there are a lot of artists outside of Lebanon who have sketches that are way more detailed.”

Farah Afra interviewing Fouad Mezher

Fouad started drawing at the age of three, but what is rather striking is that he never took a drawing or an illustration class until his second year of Graphic Design in AUB.

Movies have always had a big influence on his work. It all started with Batman, which is still a big influence for Mezher, but if he were to attribute a place for a second muse, it would go to “the Matrix”, for he was drawn by its communist subtext at a tender age despite the fact that, at the time, he had no idea what communism was.

from the comic "The Educator"

The ideas Mezher currently works on as personal endeavors find their roots in these two movies, amongst a few others. His work is a reflection of both errant and deep thoughts, issues he wants to relay to others, and things that relate to his life. They all intermingle into an amalgam of mesmerizing shapes, shadows, and sometimes color overlaid on paper.

Fouad Mezher's exhibition "Superheroes and Monkeys" at A Fish in Sea

The evil penguin, for example, is a sketch that started with a bet. And every bet has its story. It was a typical day at work, and Fouad was determined to forever tarnish the way his coworker innocently views animals. So he unleashed his twisted talent on paper, betting he will succeed. The result was the Evil Penguin, then a vampire walrus, and a once-innocent girl, now lost in the dark side that offered, not cookies, but sketches of evil animals.

from the calendar for the "International Day Against the Death Penalty"

Mezher is passionate about his work and refuses for it to be a mere routine. He always seeks to connect personally with his illustrations, even if they are a client-job.

“You try to infiltrate some of yourself and the things you care about into the job, if not, you try to find in the job an aspect you care about, if that doesn’t happen, you find a way to care about it”, asserts Mezher.

If you happen to stumble on some of Fouad’s work, be prepared for a journey like no other, one that will almost definitely leave you wanting more.

friends and visitors left their comments on Fouad's exhibition

written by Farah Afra
edited by Zeina Shaaban 
photography by Alaa Kabalan

Sunday, August 19, 2012

HAPPY EID FITR | Greeting Cards | 2012

With the closing of this holy month and the blankets of joy filling the streets and homes, We extend a warm pillow of wishes for a very Happy Eid. May the blankets envelop you. 

calligraphy by Maria Mouteirek

 عيد فطر سعيد | بطاقات معايدة | ٢٠١٢
مع نهاية هذا الشهر الفضيل ودثار الفرح يملأ الشوارع والبيوت، نبسط لكم وسادة من الأمنيات الحارّة لعيد فطر سعيد ونتمنّى أن يغمركم ويغمرنا

  الخط الديواني ماريا متيرك
الخط الكوفي زينة شعبان وعلاء قبلان

عيد فطر سعيد | Happy Eid Fitr

You can find these cards in many cafes, restaurants, sweets shops, barbor shops, minimarkets and others in Beirut and around it. If you get your hands on one, color the back with 2 colors as per the instructions, to reveal the kufi phrase that we have designed. Please share it on our facebook page.

تجدون بطاقات المعايدة هذه في العديد من القهاوي، والمطاعم، ومحلات الحلويات، والميني ماركت وغيرها في بيروت وضواحيها. إذا ما وجدتم واحدة، لونوا البطاقة كما التعليمات على الخلف، لإظهار الجملة في الخط الكوفي. شاركوها على صفحتنا على الفيسبوك

فرحة العيد بكل بيت | The joy of Eid fills every house

واعفوا واصفحوا خير لكم | And to forgive and let go is better for you

صلاة، صيام، زكاة، عيد | Prayer, Fasting, Alms, Eid

تقبّل الله منّا ومنكم | May Allah accepts from you and us
One Kufi phrase revealed by Farah إحدى الجمل بالخط الكوفي
فرحة العيد بكل بيت The joy of Eid fills every house | revealed by Layla Smaili
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