An Artist Who Isn’t Afraid of Controversies: Meet the Lebanese Ali Cha’aban

I introduce to you: Ali Cha’aban, a 27 year old Lebanese contemporary artist. His passion for becoming an artist started around his last years of university. So he began taking art history classes and graphic design introductions. This made him realize that the spectrum of art is everlasting. He found himself having a sharp eye for culture therefore he wanted his work to have a cultural impact.

Ahmed Mater, whom Ali likes to think of as “one of the pillars of the Arabic Contemporary art scene”, Damien Hirst, “who shifts the aesthetics of contemporary” art and Laila Shawa, “whose work should be introduced as the mother of Arabic revolution art” are artists Ali looks up to. If he could have any artwork in the world, it would be ‘The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living’ by Damien Hirst. “The 14-foot tiger shark immersed in formaldehyde is simply breath taking” said Ali.


What'sحلال my killer? What'sحرام my dealer?, 2014
What’sحلال my killer? What’sحرام my dealer?, 2014

The title of this artwork – what is allowed (halal) and what is taboo (haram) – is a rephrased reference from a famous rap song. What you find halal can be seen as infidelity and what you find haram can be justified as an act of affluence. “The visual describes how you ‘The thinking majority,’ falling in a spiral paradigm of what we believe is critical thinking, being constantly bombarded by the thought of questioning ancient beliefs as forbidden. People have been confusing and abusing religion as a mean to demolish what they don’t understand by stopping that critical thought; because we fear the Haram. Hence, who are ‘you’ to say what’s permissible to kill and who are you to dismiss what might be good for the soul? ” said Ali.

Shame on Arabs, 2014
Shame on Arabs, 2014

According to him the Arabic countries became more and more lethargic to the state of constant decline of our people, heritage and aesthetics. Finding themselves more and more westernized and with lack of any sentiment or sympathy for economically challenged countries. For instance Gaza, Iraq’s condition and the constant bombing in Lebanon.
The car is a reflection of the situation of the Arab, who are in standby for many years now and are gradually declining. Because of this “the youth voice their opinion through graffiti in many revolutions; and the arabesque is to demonstrate the beautiful aesthetics of what Arabs should realize but completely ignore.” said Ali.

A Saudi Porn Movie, 2012
A Saudi Porn Movie, 2012

One of the flaws of a religiously persecuted country is the abuse of its constitution. As we all know in Islam it’s considered taboo to have sexual intercourse before the marriage. So in order to physically interact with someone they vow to marry them afterwards. “Don’t worry I’ll marry you”, said the guy on the poster to the woman. In Saudi it has become a paradox; where in reality the promise is made but the aftermath does not follow according to Ali. Ali adds: “So the humour of making it a porn movie poster similar to the vintage Egyptian cinema posters to illustrate the drama of this matter.” The finer lines reading, “He promised her that son of a bitch (female dog).



This series of artworks which includes two renaissance paintings called ‘The 16th chapel’ and ‘the last supper’ were the first works he sold. He combined these famous artworks with “our modern day love for junk food and how we idolize it.”
Ali believes that art is for the masses so he doesn’t believe in emotional attachment to his work. Art is a medium for him to let those emotions out and to communicate with the world. His mantra? Live and let live!

Written by Hafsa Elazzaoui

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Hafsa Elazzaoui is a 20-year-old language student with Arabic and English as her main courses. She has a passion for food and fashion.