Amid the natural beauty that dwells in the mountains and valleys of Lebanon, there also dwells a legacy of art and literature that draws as much admirers as the panoramic and historical sites do. In one of these mountains, a poet and artist discovered the secret of the Cedars’ immortality and spread his branches across the whole world and beyond time. Gibran Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese artist from Bcharri, is a valued heritage for Lebanon and an inspiration for many other local artists and poets whose steps are treading on the path he tracked towards timeless creativeness drawn from a breathtaking town.
The prominent artist of the cedars to start with is Gibran, who was born in 1883 in Bcharri Lebanon. He emigrated with his family to the United States where he first resided in Boston and moved later to New York. Gibran was physically away from his home country and hometown, yet his love and affection to his roots had a great influence on his art and manifested in most of his works. His most famous work *The Prophet *has been translated into over 40 different languages rendering him as third bestselling author after Shakespeare and Laozi. The book consists of 26 prose poetry essays dealing with love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death. The essays are written as a dialogue between the prophet, Almustafa, who has lived in the foreign city of Orphalese for 12 years and is about to board a ship which will carry him home, and a group of people, with whom he discusses topics such as life and the human condition. The themes convey a strong belief in the healing power of universal love and the unity of everything in life.
Gibran wrote in both Arabic and English and his works include Rebellious Spirits, Broken Wings, A Tear and A Smile, The Madman, Mirrors of the Soul, Between Night & Morn and many others. Gibran’s museum in Bsharri displays the complete collection of his art consisting of 480 original paintings that mainly portray the themes of nature and the origin of human beings. Gibran undoubtedly influenced countless people around the world with his art and literature. However, his influence is deeply distilled in the spirit of his hometown people who regard his art as a great source of inspiration for intellectuality and creativeness.
For instance, Roudy Rahme is a painter, sculptor, and poet from Bsharri, who made of the dead Cedar trees in the Cedars Forest an open art museum displaying his works of art. His Lamartine Cedar in the Cedars Forest monumental sculptures entered the Guinness World Record in 2007 as the largest natural sculpture sight in the world consisting of 70 immense humanized sculptures. On the other hand, Hoda Barakat is a prominent literary figure born in Bsharri in 1952. She resided in Paris while working on her Ph.D., and returned to Lebanon following the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, which is the main setting in most of her novels that dealing with male figures struggling with the moral conventions of society. Her novel The Stone of Laughter won Al Naqid Prize and was the first Arabic novel to have a homosexual man as a central character. Barakat’s other important work is The Tiller of Waters, which won the Naguib Mahfouz medal for literature. Her recent work is The Kingdom of This Earth. This novel highlights the Maronites of Bsharri who fortify themselves against their enemies. Just like her predecessor, Barakat always carries her hometown in her heart despite the miles and miles separating them.
Another prominent local poet is Malek Tawk whose romantic poetry and poems have Bsharri and its culture as their main theme. His works are written in colloquial Arabic. The themes of tyranny and oppression found in Gibran Khalil Gibran’s writings have a great influence on his writings. Among his works that are still in manuscripts are Grape Clusters (1955), Pile of Sin (1970), Good to Die for Lebanon (1976), Pounding on Doors (1999), The Heretic (2006), and others. Following in his footsteps, his eldest son Antoine Malek Tawk, born on the 2nd of July, 1947, began writing poetry at the age of 15 becoming a renowned poet across the country. He was among the participants in the honoring festival of Gibran Khalil Gibran held in Bsharri in 1962. Since 1995, Antoine has been the organizer of a poetic and musical event held every year in the first week of September in Bsharri. Great Lebanese poets and musicians participate in this event, and each year a famous artist is honored. Among his major works are Strangle the Storyteller and Stone the Sorcerer, Mira written in loving memory of his wife who passed away and A Multiple Woman in which he uses post-modernist techniques.
The small town of Bsharri continues to witness the rise of great writers, artists and poets who never cease to draw their inspiration and motivation from the heavenly beauty of the local nature and the genius of their intellectual ancestors. There are many more to write about as the small corners in the world happen do hold the greatest human magic and wisdom waiting for us to notice and appreciate them. This article is dedicated to Farah Tawk, the daughter of Antoine Malek Tawk, who is no less of a genius then her father and her grandfather.