Athens and Beirut have a lot in common. A stone’s throw away from one another, both cities are blessed by the Mediterranean’s climate and its blue waters. They have similar forms of hospitality, food, culture, speaking mannerisms, and artistic proclivities…
With the Beirut bombing on August 4, which raised concern worldwide with its terrifying repercussions, Greeks of Lebanese origin and Lebanese of Greek origin took action, extending a helping hand to those affected. George Abu Shabaka launched the Athens Loves Beirut initiative after he felt the empathy shown by the Greek capital for Beirut and its people.
This initiative aims to convey the support of many Greek designers and artists for the Lebanese capital and its people.
With the website http: - www.decoventure.com-shop , a virtual space has been created to exhibit artistic designs for handbags, fashion, jewelry, drawing paintings, and ceramics by famous Greek artists.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Abu Shabaka explained how this initiative emerged. “I settled in Greece about six years ago, and I have established good relations with many Greek artists, especially since I work in the field of interior design. I also have many Greeks friends, whom I have known from years before. When the Beirut explosion happened, I felt guilty for being away from my beloved city”.
He continues, “my house is in an area close to the explosion and was seriously affected by the disaster, I was told.
"I wished I were there and could extend a helping hand to my neighbors and friends. After seeing all this sympathy and concern of my Greek friends in solidarity with the people of Beirut, I decided to launch this initiative. They all encouraged me, especially since they were looking for a way to help those affected. I contacted the Greek public relations firm (YALGO), and the journey began.
The company took it upon itself to make the necessary contacts with Greek artists other than those I knew. Like the well-known Greek bag designer Corello, contemporary sculptor Stasis Alekseopoulos, fashion designer Liana Kampa and jewelry designer Leto, about 20 Greek artists gathered under the banner of Athena Loves Beirut.
On the reactions, Abu Shabaka says: “I have received many calls from well-known artists and others who want to join. But I preferred to start it with this number of artists, with the hope of expanding it in the future."
The items up for sale, the proceeds of which will go to those affected by the explosion, are unique. George Abu Shabaka explained: “Some of them chose design themes that are directly related to Beirut. One designed a complete dress with accessories embroidered with the word "Beirut". And another one carved a golden heart made of marble and resin. Another used silk fabric and placed it within the frame of a painting to take an artistic scene out of the ordinary, and a different designer carved a design necklace of a heart with the word Beirut in it. Each of them expressed his love for our city in his own way.
Each piece comes with a written love letter from the designer to Beirut.
To date, the initiative has managed to raise a significant sum of money (about 20 thousand euros). Customers who bought the artworks through the website were from Singapore, Greece, Lebanon, and other countries. The money was transferred to two charitable institutions directly, OffreJoie and Lebanese Food Bank.
Abu Shabaka explains: “We chose these two organizations with the hope of expanding the choices available in the future and include other credible charities.”
Participation in this initiative is open until further notice. Abu Shabaka indicates that other similar steps are being prepared to support his people on the one hand and promote Greek and Lebanese cultural exchange, on the other hand.
In the context of the conversation, he said: “For the near future, we are preparing a non-virtual project through which we will support the Lebanese designers. We will create an actual bridge between them and their Greek colleagues by organizing reciprocal art exhibitions between the two countries. We are also thinking of offering a gift to every Greek designer who participated in the initiative, a cedar seedling bearing his name to be planted in the Barouk Cedar Forest."