DUBAI: New York is home to numerous public monuments that honor influential authors of the 19th and 20th centuries: Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, and Gertrude Stein, to name a few. It’s rare to see an Arab personality amongst such honorees, but that’s about to change. A new marble sculpture commemorating the late Lebanese-American writer, artist, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, who died in New York in 1931, will be inaugurated in late 2023. It’s a timely addition, since this year marks the 100th anniversary of Gibran’s literary masterpiece, “The Prophet,” which offers timeless life advice to the reader.
The idea for the sculpture was initiated by the not-for-profit Kahlil Gibran Collective, an online platform dedicated to all things Gibran. “It’s going to be the first monument-sculpture in New York for Gibran,” Glen Kalem-Habib, the collective’s founder, tells Arab News. “Ironically, we have one in Boston and Washington DC, but not one in New York, where Gibran was living and where he wrote ‘The Prophet.’”
The sculpture will be placed in the garden of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, which was close to Gibran’s now-demolished apartment. It’s a significant location because it was reportedly where the first public reading of “The Prophet” took place in 1923. Instead of building a traditional bust of the author himself, the monument will emulate a symbolist drawing he made, entitled “Hand of God,” for the cover of “The Prophet.” It will also accommodate an accessible podium for live recitals. The structure, resembling a hand with emerging ‘human flames,’ is being created by the Lebanese artist Rudy Rahme, who hails from the same village as Gibran, Bcharre.
The organizers hope to unveil the statue on September 21, the date “The Prophet” was published a century ago. The ceremony will be accompanied with a string of events, including a formal dinner and an academic symposium at the Lebanese American University in the city.
The team is currently in full fundraising mode and has so far received support from academia and Alfred A. Knopf, Gibran’s publishing company. But there’s more to be done. “We really need to get the message out there and hopefully get some support,” says Kalem-Habib.