Lebanese American University


Henri Zoghaib aims to open doors into Lebanon’s cultural heritage

The head of LAU’s Center for Lebanese Heritage plans a diverse schedule of upcoming discussions, journal editions and a possible heritage tour.

As LAU’s Center for Lebanese Heritage (CLH) prepares to publish an anthology of all the papers presented during this year’s panel discussions, its founder and director Henri Zoghaib is preparing for next year’s series of events. “I want to ensure that they are appealing and interactive, and always cover a wide range of disciplines,” says the poet and arts critic.

On the agenda are topics in fashion, craftsmanship, poetry, theatre and visual arts. “It’s not because I am a poet that the center will focus solely on literary heritage,” says Zoghaib. “We in Lebanon have a wealth of achievements across various fields, and our schedule of events each year reflects this.”  

While the yearly anthology of presentations, first published eight years ago, ensures the documentation of all presentations given during the CLH’s monthly gatherings, the center’s new journal, Mirrors of Heritage, enables in-depth analysis of particular areas of interest. The inaugural issue, published in the fall of 2014, was dedicated to Lebanon’s oral history, of which zajal is an important component. This melodic poetry was also the subject of one of this year’s discussions. 

May Ziade, Said Akl, the Fleifle brothers and Lebanese silk were among the topics that drew crowds to the BB903 auditorium, the site of most of the discussions. Zoghaib plans to host a forthcoming session at the Irwin Theatre and to invite performing arts students to participate in a celebration of the works of playwright Said Takieddine. “I like to always see some form of performance, recital or screening in their presentations, so as to engage the audience,” says Zoghaib.

In addition to celebrating the work of Lebanon’s many great cultural actors, the CLH series reviews the country’s creative industries. A talk about Lebanon’s once grand silk industry was hugely popular this year. The 2015/16 schedule includes discussions about the country’s art galleries, artisans and fashion designers.

“How has fashion changed over the past four centuries? Do folk costume designs resonate in the designs of modern Lebanese fashion houses? How have galleries influenced Lebanese artists? What future do artisans have in Lebanon? These are all fascinating questions that deserve exploration,” says Zoghaib enthusiastically. Despite his heavy workload, he also hopes to organize a CLH exploration of a heritage or archeological site in Lebanon in the coming year.

In addition to writing and publishing his own poetry, Zoghaib has written biographies — most recently about the Rahbani brothers, published earlier this year — and is editorial director of MEA’s inflight magazine. He is also an active arts critic with two radio shows and a regular newspaper column. This wealth of activity nurtures his ability to organize unique and engaging discussions for the CLH: “I read and converse a lot and so am constantly presented with ideas for new topics worthy of discussion. Lebanon’s heritage is rich. We want to open as many doors as possible.”


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