There’s been a lot of buzz around street art in Beirut in recent years. From Ashekman to White Wall, Lebanese graffiti has grown from its humble origins in hip hop culture to becoming a key part of the global urban ‘beautification’ establishment.

We’re huge fans of this phenomenon, of course, but in all this excitement, it’s easy to forget Beirut’s other street art, that original, badass, neighborhood boss: the poster.



Think about it: can you imagine Beirut without its loud and proud, ripped up and multilayered bosterat (بوسترات)?

Here are five important genres you should know:

1. The War Poster


(Source: Political Geography)

Lebanese poster art came of age during the Civil War. Every party had a propaganda office in charge of churning out these things, but, according to Zeina Maasri in her book, Off the Wall, it was the pro-PLO/National Front artists who truly excelled in the genre. That was because they had links with leftists from around the world and benefitted from the very latest in Cuban and Soviet graphic design techniques.

The American University of Beirut has a massive collection of these posters archived in their library, so that they may be remembered but not repeated.

Related Genre: The Martyrs’ Poster


(Source: Michael Totten)


(Source: LRB)


2. The Election Poster



This is a very rich genre and there are so many examples to choose from, but I think this parody poster made for the webseries Shankaboot a few years ago captures its basic visual language very well. The Election Poster should not be confused with the wholly distinct Universal Standard Za’im Poster, but telling the two apart can be tricky. Sometimes, the two can even overlap with the martyrdom genre seen above, which, for the more purist fans of the artform, can be a taxonomical nightmare.


(Taken from Advertised to Death: Lebanese Poster Boys)

True connoisseurs will have to travel outside of Beirut to appreciate this genre’s full spectrum. This is because, as Paula Schmitt argues in her book, Advertised to Death, “posting the faces of politicians on the streets is a means of establishing a party’s territory” (p. 9) -- so go on, get out there and explore!

3. The Event Poster


(Source: Imgur.com)

These are almost as ubiquitous as political posters. Whenever a superstar DJ arrives in town, the whole city is plastered with his face in celebration. While our martyrs and za’ims provide a sense of permanence in the city -- a feeling of endless presence, a past that we can never quite get past -- the Event Poster is about right now: are you going to Armin? Were you at Carl Cox?

These posters usually come in repetitive and monumental displays, as you can see from the screenshot above. The Event Poster is a true love song to youth and the most honest trace of our lives in Beirut.

Related Genres: The Theater Poster, The Exhibition Poster, etc.


(Source: Paulo Nunes dos Santos)


4. The Lo-Fi Wi-Fi Poster (A.K.A. The Do It Yourself)




(Source: Lebanese Memes)

Amid all the fancy, professionally designed advertisements is this authentically Beiruti genre. The vernacular Wireless Internet Poster is ever-present and straight-to-the-point. What can one possibly say to do justice to its minimal beauty? Leaders will rise, martyrs will fall, and DJs will come and go -- but the simple things in life are best put simply. Or, in the words of Jack Black in Wonderboy, there’s “not much to say when you’re high above the mucky muck.”

Related Genre: the Arghileh Delivery poster

(Source: Plus961)


5. The Artsy Poster (A.K.A. The Just Because)



These aren’t very common, but every once in a while, you come across posters that are there just because.



These represent the poster art form at its most elevated level: art for art’s sake, or the pure desire to reach out and touch someone.

Honorable Mentions

Sometimes, a single poster or a small genre you won’t find everywhere, will really grab your attention. Here are three of my favorites that I encountered over the past year:

Valentine’s Day in Bourj Hammoud:


(Photo viaimgur.com)

Trade Unionism in Mar Mikhael:


(Photo via imgur.com)

This clever (re)use of Beirut’s poster heritage:


(Photo via imgur.com)

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