Schedules are updated every Thursday.

Loulwa Soweid 24 Apr 2015

What Does It Mean? The Mystery of Pangea in Lebanon

I can’t pinpoint exactly when the mysterious word began appearing around AUB’s campus, I only remember that a few months ago I suddenly began noticing it scribbled on garbage-cans and lamp-posts, scrawled in the upper recesses of Jafet library, popping up on the wall between the second and third floor as you ascended via elevator in the Physics building. It was just one word: Pangea.

(PANGEA as seen from elevator in AUB)

I wasn’t the only one perplexed by its presence. Other AUBites had taken to the internet to express their shared confusion. In an attempt to figure out just how wide the Pangea tag had spread, they noted the various locations the mysterious word had been spotted: Bliss Street, Hamra, Monot, Mar Mkhail, Dekweneh, Achrafieh, even on the back of a truck heading down the highway.

(PANGEA seen on back on random truck)

Pangea is the name of the massive supercontinent that existed hundreds of millions of years ago, but its literal definition wasn’t sufficient to those who were still wondering about its symbolic meaning. In what resembled an online brainstorming-session, one student suggested it was a rather out-of-the-ordinary advertisement for the beach in Jiyeh, while another noted that he heard it was a symbol for a communist conspiracy theory. For simplicity’s sake, another student entertained the possibility that the artist responsible was merely a geology-enthusiast.

But the most popular, and probably the most relevant, suggestion pertaining to Pangea’s meaning is that it is a reference to the notion of “one Lebanon,” or even, “one world.” Pangea represents a unified chunk of land before it split into the seven separate continents we see on today’s maps, so perhaps the artist wanted us all to reflect on the current state of our country, split apart by conflict, religion and politics, among other things.

(PANGEA in Achrafieh)

Then again, perhaps the artist woke up one morning, decided to make a mark around Beirut, and thought that the word Pangea sounded poetic.

However, it appears as if none of us are going to receive confirmation regarding the precise backstory or message behind Pangea. Everyone who I reached out to who claimed to know the unnamed artist seemed to be bound by a code of silence. The only information I was able to elicit for certain is that the artist is male and was a former AUB student, which I suppose at least answers why Pangea is found all over campus.

“He’ll never step forward for an interview or admit he’s the one who wrote Pangea, even if I introduce him in person,” said Nerces Arslanian. “For him, those tags lose their value as soon as it’s discovered who drew them.”

While it may be frustrating seeing Pangea and never being able to claim with utter confidence that we know the story behind it, we may have to be content with it remaining a mystery. But if the artist did indeed intend to portray “one Lebanon”, we can appreciate that he used a more ambiguous word, rather than simply painting “unity” across Beirut, to engage us all in a mental debate.

Also, the fact that Pangea is painted in public places rather than confined to a single area or in easy-to-miss spots means that a number of people are now aware of its existence, and at the very least, we can be sure that all of us are unified by the fact that we are still searching for the meaning behind it.