I was delighted to be invited to lead a Land Art Festival in Lebanon this summer. It wasn't a country I had visited before and I was excited to see a new place and meet new people.
Rachana village is home to the Basbous family and my invite came from the Rachana Foundation after an idea by the well known sculptor Anachar Basbous. Anachar is the son of Michel Basbous who in the preceeding decades along with his brothers had transformed the village with dozens of monumental sculptures of stone and other materials while building an international reputation with their work being shown in reknowned galleries all around the world.
Anachar continues their legacy, a very talented scuptor in his own right who specialises in steel, and his idea was to try and start an environmental movement in the Middle East by inspiring people through land art.
Prior to the festival itself I was invited to Rachana for the launch and press conference to meet everyone involved and give a speech to the assembled dignitaries. It was a whirlwind trip of travelling, a day to meet everyone, the launch event conference, a speech and many interviews before returning home the next day.
With the heady mix of a new country, a new culture, meeting so many people and the outstanding art dotted around Rachana it was a pinch me moment when I got home as it seemed that it all must've been a dream.
We were very much looking forward to visiting again in July for the festival itself.
It was with much anticipation that we flew back to Beirut before travelling onto Byblos and Rachana to meet everyone again. While the weather was quite pleasant in May it was now 38C and very humid.
The competing teams were from five Lebanese Universities: two fine art groups and three who were studying architecture. My task was to mentor them all throughout the event and help guide them through the process of creating land art installations. It was going to be a very busy time as I also needed to create my own installation for the final day, conduct many interviews for the press and TV whilst visiting all the student groups dotted around the village.
The final day arrived and before the closing ceremony was upon us we all needed to make the finishing touches to our sculptures. I had placed mine along the old road that lead to three of the installations and new that the setting sun would illuminate the ephemeral details at precisely 6.30pm just as everyone was visiting each site.
Each installation created by the student groups was quite remarkable, unrestrained as they were from what has gone before in the land art movement. They were free to create whatever their imaginations conjured up and each was as interesting and unique from the others. I was so impressed but their journey and so many of them had had a remarkable experience. I made dozens of friends and was so happy to have helped open so many eyes to the joy in this artform.
I was quite emotional to leave but hopefully one day I will be able to return to Rachana and once again experience the warmth of my Lebanese friends.