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When ceramics becomes an art

LAU professor of ceramics Samar Mogharbel receives the Jouhaina Baddoura award.

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The series of wrecked cars inspired by the 2005 assassinations earned her the Sursock Museum’s first prize.
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Mogharbel takes inspiration from Beirut lost buildings.
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Mogharbel’s Basta house.
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Sculpting the famous Beirut manara.

Click on any photo to view all 4 pictures.

LAU professor and ceramist Samar Mogharbel has been awarded the Jouhaïna Baddoura prize, which bears the name of the late artist and collaborator with the Ministry of Culture. The award, consisting of a $5000 compensation, was won last year by another LAU professor, Greta Naufal.

Mogharbel views the award first and foremost as a victory for the ceramics discipline. “With this recognition, it was established that ceramics is an art”, she says. “I have changed the way people look at ceramics, proving that this discipline can be a work of sculpture.”

The artist does not shy away from thorny political questions. In 2005, following the assassination of several major politicians, she crafted six wrecked cars that pulled at the heartstrings of Lebanese society and earned her the Sursock Museum’s first prize.

Similarly, her work “Under pressure” expressed the feelings of anxiety and fear that dominate the Lebanese people through a collection of finely glazed gas tanks. While on one hand these objects evoke intimate memories of solidarity during the days of the war, they are also a portent of possible death.

Much of Mogharbel’s work has been oriented towards recapturing the emotional memories of the war. Her second solo exhibition at Agial Art Gallery, “Without Trace,” takes inspiration from Beirut buildings lost forever to urban development. In bringing them back to life, she plays with the shapes, colors, and memories of a fading era.

Mogharbel’s own family building was torn down and her work visually conveys the feeling of loss that still burdens her. “If we cannot have them in real life,” she says, “we can at least preserve them in smaller form.” In the installation, taller buildings disappear in a brush of black paint while the smaller, traditional houses gain visual dominance thanks to the use of white tints.

An LAU alumna, Mogharbel has taught at her home institution for over 30 years. After graduating, she completed her studies at Goldsmith’s College in London, obtaining a postgraduate diploma in ceramics. Her work has been showcased in solo exhibitions in Lebanon and Sweden and in group exhibitions in Lebanon, Croatia, France and the UAE. She has also created several stop motion videos that have been shown in Lebanon and Europe.

Her path towards art was shaped by her encounter with her former teacher Dorothy Salhab Kazemi, the first ceramic artist in Lebanon. Inspired by her, Mogharbel left the course she had been pursuing  in business computing for a career in art.

While her family at the time opposed the decision, the artist has no regrets. “I still enjoy every minute of it,” she says, arguing that to this day, her process of learning has not ended.

Mogharbel has one simple piece of advice for her students that she herself successfully applied to her own life: “Follow your passion. And make it your profession.”


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