We discussed “خلي الليرة ترجع تحكي” with the artist, Ibrahim Sultani
I first encountered the work of this amazing artist while scrolling through Twitter and was fascinated by what he had going on.
Ibrahim Sultani, a 22 year old architecture student at LAU, is painting Lebanese icons on coins and paper money to “خلي الليرة ترجع تحكي” (money talks, or bringing back the value of the currency) and he’s definitely doing exactly that.
From Fairuz to Wadih Al Safi through Gibran Khalil Gibran, Melhem Barakat, Ziad El Rahbani, Fadi El Khatib and many many others, Ibrahim has given faces to Lebanese Currency bills transforming the smallest money values into art and thus elevating their worth, reaching his goal set in the title of the project.
I reached out to Ibrahim to know a bit more about “خلي الليرة ترجع تحكي,” what drove him, and the controversy surrounding his painting on actual money, which many think is a waste of money rather than an amplification of its value.
1- What drove you to start the project? How did you get the idea? And most importantly, why money?
I started collecting coins from the 1990s about 2 years ago until I had collected 100,000 LL made entirely of coins. Then I went on to collect 1,000 LL bills until I had also collected 100,000 LL of 1,000 bills. So I had a pile of collected money that I did not want to spend but rather collected as a hobby and I wanted to put them to good use rather than a materialistic use. Since I draw portraits ever since 2009, I wanted to continue doing that in a new revolutionary way so I drew Feyrouz on a 1,000 LL bill.
As to “Why Feyrouz on the 1000 LL?” It’s simply because money has lost so much of its value to the point whereby I’m painting on it. But at the same time I want to give this bill back its value and make it a more valuable one. And my way to do that is painting Lebanese icons we’re proud of as a nation on the Lebanese banknotes.
I was strongly influenced to come up with this idea based on an Andy Warhol quote in which he says he asked around his friends for new ideas, finally, one lady friend asked him the right question: What do you love most? That’s how he started painting money.
What he meant was he started painting on canvases symbols or images in reference to money. To me, painting money meant painting on the money itself.
2- There has been a lot of controversy and opposing opinions surrounding your use of money as a mean to draw and paint on, how do you respond to that?
I do what I want to do. I’m very determined, confident and proud of what I’m doing. If I were to listen to negativity and let it affect me, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today.
3- Who’s your biggest inspiration? Why?
My grandfather. He was an artist as well. I used to watch him paint ever since I was a kid and I always wanted to imitate what he did and be like him.
4- A quote you live by, art wise/life wise.
For this particular concept, the Andy Warhol quote is the one that inspired me.
Another quote I’m trying to integrate in my concept is Graham Greene’s “Destruction is after all another form of creation.”
When asked about new projects, Ibrahim said that he will be focusing on this one for the time being and has nothing new planned but we will definitely be keeping an eye on “خلي الليرة ترجع تحكي” and anything else he might put out there. We’re absolutely loving the outcome!
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