Google Honoring Etel Adnan

Today Google honored Etel Adnan. A Lebanese–American poet, essayist, and visual artist. Born to a Syrian father and a Greek mother, she studied philosophy and went to California in 1955, where she taught and became a painter. Although writing in French, then in English, she has been well known as a poet throughout the Arab world. In 2003, Adnan was named “arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today” by the academic journal MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. As a painter, she is internationally recognized, and her works are part of acquisitions by the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum, New York; the Los Angeles Museum of Art; the British Museum; the Pompidou Center in Paris; the Modern Art, in Torino, Italy; the Museum of Modern Art in Tunis; the Sursock Museum in Beirut; and many private collections.

The bond Etel Adnan had with Ahliah School was immediate and, although she taught for two years, it became unbreakable. Whenever she came to Lebanon, she visited all her friends from Ahliah. Her tremendous support to Ahliah continues. Her relationship with Ahliah is best described by her own words taken from her message for the Centennial of Ahliah in 2016: “I went to Ahliah School in l947 when I was 22 years old, I taught French for two years. Those two years at Ahliah left a permanent impact on my life. Having recently acquired independence from the French, the country was somehow divided between people yearning for independence and self-expression and those that are fiercely pro-French. I had gone to schools run by French nuns in Beirut and sensed their near-arrogance towards the “natives” –towards the local culture, a strange situation, strange to me, at least. Unfortunately, this made me uncomfortable throughout my childhood. A product of a mixed marriage with a Muslim father, I suffered from being racialized. In contrast, at Ahliah, I found an administration, teachers, and students who were not “colonized,” who were at ease with themselves and others, both in a traditional and modern sense, and open to all religions and ethnicities on an equal basis. This was a revelation for me. It was fully what people want and hope to find in Lebanon: A genuine place for a friendly encounter between people from different religious and social backgrounds and even different countries. I did not yet understand what was is going on in the region, but I found an answer, a solution, a peace, in Ahliah. I encountered and found human empathy and acceptance at Ahliah. This saved me and gave me an inner peace that I felt I must be lacking. I discovered a new world, learning as much, and certainly infinitely more, than I was teaching. It was at Ahliah where I became aware of the beauty of the Arabic language. The world came to Ahliah, I had never discovered such a harmonious environment before this time and during my (long) life.“

Although Etel taught at Ahliah for two years, her footsteps left an imprint upon the hearts of everyone who knew her. Her legacy lived on from one generation to another through her unbound fondness, commitment, and support to the Ahliah community with whom she shares visions, dreams and values.


The eternal candle Etel lit will shine even brighter. The love Etel left behind has been weaved into the lives of everyone who was touched by her compassion and empathy.

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