Mashrou’ Leila took to the the stage at the Ehdeniyyat Festival on Saturday, August 12, with an unforgettable performance.
In line with the band’s outspoken stance on a number of issues ranging from inequality, sexuality, gender roles and politics, their satirical lyrics have, more often than not, stirred up some controversy in the Arab world.
The show at Ehden, however, provided new grounds for the Beirut-based band to explore the intersectionality of art and activism. In collaboration with the likes of Greenpeace, Recycle Lebanon, and Al Midan, the band jumped on to the #BalaPlastic bandwagon: a campaign aimed to raise awareness on the destructive effects of single-use plastic consumption on rivers, forests, and beaches.
Mashrou’ Leila was adamant on taking advantage of the show to help send out this message. Their vision is to create a stage design made entirely out of recycled plastic, and that is where DI-Lab comes in.
Established in 2016 by Professor Karim Najjar, DI-Lab (Design Impact Laboratory) is a platform based in the American University of Beirut’s (AUB) Department of Architecture and Design that engages architecture and engineering students and faculty in the research, design, and implementation of community-based projects in Lebanon and the region.
Crafted as a summer workshop, DI-Lab teamed up with Mashrou’ Leila to explore creative design methods that could evoke a real impact during the show. What was special about this particular collaboration is that four out of the five band members came straight out of AUB’s very own Design department. Ideas were pitched in an eager ambience induced by this unspoken comfort in which everyone understood common design language.
After weeks spent between the studio, the concert site at Ehden, and countless hardware stores, the design was almost complete a few days before the show. Four 4 – 6 meter tall steel cages arrived on site. They were ready to be filled top to bottom with the plastic waste gathered up from Recycle Lebanon’s Beach Clean-Up event at Dalieh.
The idea was for these massive cages to take over the entire stage with a little surprise planned throughout the show. The cages were intentionally made invisible at the start, providing a black backdrop against the lights illuminating the band members. One by one, the cages began to reveal themselves to the awe and excitement of the crowd. What seemed like static installations took on a new form when, in the middle of “Bahr”, one of the band’s songs, the cages opened and plastic flooded the entire stage leaving the band members immersed in a “sea of trash”. This sent out a message and confronted everyone with the reality of our neglected social responsibility.
Towards the end, in a true rock concert fashion, massive balls of recycled plastic bottles were released while crowd surfing their way across the whole venue.
“DI – Lab x Mashrou’ Leila” is one among many initiatives that DI – Lab prides itself in leading and taking part in. During this summer alone, it managed to design, and is currently in the process of executing, two more community–based projects across Lebanon. The Bahr el Eid Revival intervention in Saida, soon to be constructed, aims to create a safe, shaded, and interactive space for children and families to experience throughout the year. Further down south, DI-Lab has turned its focus to the Marine Protected Areas along Tyre’s sandy coast, and it has introduced a recently completed lightweight structure located in the buffer zone between the public beach and the nearby nature reserve.