With sketchbook in hand, Rafik leaves the family nest for Lebanon in 1991. The naïve 19 year old is looking for his place in a world that is also grasping its newfound freedom after the civil war. Beirut became a city radically transforming from a battleground to a playground. Like the equivalent of Soho Districts in New York & London, the back streets of Hamra & Downtown became a magnate for students, run-aways and creative alike; a melting pot to indulge and disconnect from concrete reality; where the chaos and the creativity could live side-by-side.
Circling in a new crowd of post-war Lebanese artists, including sibling artists Flavia and Fulvio Codsi, Marwan Rechmaoui, and photographer Gilbert Hage, Rafik starts teaching himself to paint. The naïve/immature artist explores the figurative, predominantly linear cubist aesthetics in bold color, before gradually moving towards expressionism.