Khalil Gibran lives on through his art

2013-08-28 By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

Khalil Gibran, author of “The Prophet” – a volume of spiritual essays first published in 1923 – continues to inspire people 82 years after his death through his philosophy and artwork.

“The Prophet” has been translated into more than 40 languages and a new film based on the book is now in production. Around 80,000 visitors a year travel to the Gibran Museum in the poet’s hometown, Bsharri, in north Lebanon, while his paintings and personal effects tour exhibitions around the world, most recently travelling to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Gibran National Committee (GNC), which oversees his legacy, is working on a series of international projects, which GNC president Tarek Chidiac discussed with Al-Shorfa.

Al-Shorfa: Can you tell us about your forthcoming exhibitions?

Tarek Chidiac: We are currently negotiating with several countries to organise special exhibitions of Gibran’s work, particularly in China, Italy and the French Savoy region. Our co-operation with the provincial governorship of Savoy is expected to produce a twinning between its cultural institutions and Gibran’s library, museum and parental home. Such a project provides us with the financial support to continue, especially in light of how costly the restoration of Gibran’s paintings is.

Al-Shorfa: How so?

Chidiac: The average age of Gibran’s paintings is 100 years. So they need to undergo annual restoration to keep them intact. The average restoration cost per painting ranges between $200 and $3,000. These costs are high, especially as the committee has 440 of his paintings, or two-thirds of all his paintings.

Al-Shorfa: What is new with regard to Gibran?

Chidiac: We are preparing to launch the International Gibran Forum, an initiative by the University of Maryland, which had already established The Khalil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace. The forum was launched with the participation of 45 countries, and will be devoted to the study, research and ideas of Gibran. The GNC will chair the forum.

Al-Shorfa: There is talk of a movie on Gibran with funding from actress Salma Hayek.

Chidiac: Salma Hayek, in her capacity as a producer, contributed a quarter of the film’s production costs, or $3 million out of the film’s total cost of $12 million. It is a 90-minute animated movie based on the book, “The Prophet”.

The film, which brought together a number of directors and producers who had worked for well-known Hollywood companies, is co-ordinated by main director Roger Allers, who directed “The Lion King”. They established a production company under the name ‘Screen Profit’ and obtained permission from us to adapt “The Prophet” into a movie, since we own the exclusive rights to the book.

Al-Shorfa: Can you tell us more about the movie?

Chidiac: The movie is in 12 chapters dealing with love, marriage and children, after Allers excluded anything that has to do with religion or politics. It was filmed in a number of countries – one director per country – with the traditions and customs of each country evoked in each chapter.

Al-Shorfa: You recently purchased a copy of “The Prophet” previously owned by Elvis Presley.

Chidiac: Elvis Presley is known to have purchased 100 copies of “The Prophet” to give to friends, and kept one copy for himself in which he hand-wrote his personal notes. The GNC bought that copy from an Australian at an auction as it includes Elvis’s thoughts and notes on Gibran’s thoughts.

Al-Shorfa: Three years ago you published a book titled “Turn the Page Young Man” that included unpublished manuscripts by Gibran. Are there any other unknown works?

Chidiac: Yes. What we published was only a third of his unpublished works. In addition to the papers we have, there are manuscripts at the University of North Carolina and at the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. There are still many things that are unknown about Gibran, and the proof is that nary a year passes without a new study released about him. Research on him is still on-going, be it on his character, thoughts or philosophy. He was a man of many complexities, and his researchers are divided between supporters and detractors of his thinking, thus perpetuating Gibran’s existence through his thoughts and philosophy.


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