One on One

Sibylle Tarazi

5 Mins read
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Designer

Creating innovative pieces that fuse sculptural concepts with contemporary furniture, Sibylle Tarazi draws from her Italian-Lebanese background and love for the Mediterranean landscape in the traditional materials she uses in her craft. In the wake of the explosion, she sees an important role for artists in ensuring that the past continues to inform the future.


WE HAVE PAID THE HIGHEST PRICE IN THE REGION, SIMPLY FOR BEING LOCATED AT THE CROSSROAD OF CIVILISATIONS AND IN THE HOTTEST AREA OF ALL, GEOPOLITICALLY SPEAKING.

Ali Y. Khadra: What was your first reaction to the blast?

SibylleTarazi: Fear, a lot of fear. Also sadness and surprise. I immediately understood there would be many casualties and deaths. The scale was so big. How can you destroy a city in five seconds? You lose everything. Everything you live for, everything you’ve worked for all your life – gone. It was a big hit not only to Beirut as a physical entity, but also to life and culture here.

AYK: A lot of people are saying that if things don’t change now, they will never get better.

ST: The explosion came after so much misery. People deserve a decent life. They should not have to beg for food or be jobless, homeless, roofless. I mean, what have we done to deserve all this conflict? We have paid the highest price in the region, simply for being located at the crossroad of civilisations and in the hottest area of all, geopolitically speaking.

AYK: What can artists contribute to the process of change in a failed state like Lebanon?

ST: Art is crucial, because it’s part of what Lebanon has been for centuries and it’s essential for keeping Lebanon on the map. We don’t want this country to be known only for war and destruction. Art is the positive image of Lebanon; it’s the hope we carry in the country’s image. The work of Lebanese artists is particularly rich, eclectic and versatile because they have experienced so many traumas. One dimension where artists can help right now is with the preservation of heritage in the districts that have been destroyed. Instead of emptying these areas like a sort of Ground Zero, as Solidere did after the civil war, we can consolidate existing structures and build on top of them – rather than driving people out of their homes for new skyrises. This is what we are fighting for.

AYK: Beirut’s traditional architecture is a very important part of your own work. How did this interest develop

ST: I come from a family of archaeologists and antique collectors, and my mother fought for heritage preservation all her life. After the civil war, and in the face of all the new development, she worked with the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées to save as many of the historic buildings as possible. Beirut’s architecture is unique and its cross-cultural influences are very important in the kind of work I do. I like to mix things and create a virtual link between the past, present and future. I’m also inspired by the raw elements of the Lebanese landscape, trade and topography. I try to put all these elements together in each piece I create, keeping life very present and creating a new image for the future.

I LIKE TO MIX THINGS AND CREATE A VIRTUAL LINK BETWEEN THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE. I’M ALSO INSPIRED BY THE RAW ELEMENTS OF THE LEBANESE LANDSCAPE, TRADE AND TOPOGRAPHY.

Stay or leave Stay, because my city and my country needs me Dream for Beirut That it remains the hospitable, energetic city that never sleeps Image of Beirut past The vibrant streets of Mar Mikhael at night Image of Beirut present Volunteers running to save lost and broken heritage What it means to be Lebanese To be a survivor and look forward to tomorrow even if today is bleak

AYK: You also focus on the passage of time and the fleeting transience of life – I’m thinking here of your work Shifting Times. ST: In Beirut if you live through the next day, it’s already a miracle in its own right. So, the ephemerality of life is really important in my work. Shifting Times is inspired by antique sundials and I worked with House of Today and its founder CherineMagrabi Tayeb when I participated, among others in the Lebanese design scene, in the PIASA auction that ran in Paris last month. AYK: How can Canvas readers help you and your fellow artists in Lebanon? ST: By promoting Lebanese artists and keeping the memory of Beirut alive. It’s all part of a chain of support. In my case, the art doesn’t happen if I don’t give work to my artisans. Many of their shops have been affected by the blast and these important craftspeople need assistance right now. If I’m able to find clients outside Lebanon who can buy my pieces, then I can give the artisans more work here. They are so skilled, producing jewellery, woodwork, mother of pearl inlay, all sorts of beautiful things that are also vulnerable, like everything here. Take this mirror. I’ve had it since last summer but decided not to display it. I had a kind of sixth sense that something might happen and it could be damaged. So, let’s try to make Beirut a peaceful city, not a conflict zone.

AYK: You also focus on the passage of time and the fleeting transience of life – I’m thinking here of your work Shifting Times.

ST: In Beirut if you live through the next day, it’s already a miracle in its own right. So, the ephemerality of life is really important in my work. Shifting Times is inspired by antique sundials and I worked with House of Today and its founder CherineMagrabi Tayeb when I participated, among others in the Lebanese design scene, in the PIASA auction that ran in Paris last month.

AYK: How can Canvas readers help you and your fellow artists in Lebanon?

ST: By promoting Lebanese artists and keeping the memory of Beirut alive. It’s all part of a chain of support. In my case, the art doesn’t happen if I don’t give work to my artisans. Many of their shops have been affected by the blast and these important craftspeople need assistance right now. If I’m able to find clients outside Lebanon who can buy my pieces, then I can give the artisans more work here. They are so skilled, producing jewellery, woodwork, mother of pearl inlay, all sorts of beautiful things that are also vulnerable, like everything here. Take this mirror. I’ve had it since last summer but decided not to display it. I had a kind of sixth sense that something might happen and it could be damaged. So, let’s try to make Beirut a peaceful city, not a conflict zone.

Amit Varadrajan is a staff writer at Canvas, covering news, politics, and culture
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