Lisa Kaaki, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2010-12-22 18:47

Thanks to her artistic talents, she decided to produce a limited edition print inspired by a poem written by the Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani, and sung by the Lebanese singer, Majdah Al-Roumi. All the proceeds from the sale of this limited print were donated to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Four years later, Hibrawi cooperated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to set up the “Buy a Tee, Help a Refugee” campaign in which proceeds from the sales of the exclusive Arabic Calligraphy T-shirts benefit the organization ().
“I always try to research as much as possible any charity I partner with. It’s important that the organization be transparent and true to its cause. UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some 4.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory. It is not only an important cause, but one that people need to be made aware of,” said Hibrawi.
This original Arabic Calligraphy “Tee” collection was designed to promote peace and understanding through a positive message. The Arabic designs are the words for love, beauty, peace and justice. “Each person that wears these tees helps promote the message of peace and understanding, one shirt at a time,” said Hibrawi.
The T-shirts have been so successful that they sold out and are currently being reprinted. They are available in Saudi Arabia, but can also be purchased online .
Born in Riyadh in 1978, Hibrawi credits her parents for encouraging her passion for painting. She also acknowledges that growing up in Saudi Arabia influenced her work. “Islamic architecture and calligraphy were everywhere,” she explained.
She discovered the artwork of Iraqi born calligrapher, Hassan Massoudy, at the Saudi Aramco medical center in Dharan. said Hibrawi, acknowledging that Massoudy influenced her work.
Hibrawi liberally incorporates calligraphic inscriptions in her artwork and mostly uses acrylic paints mixed with ink. “The ink flows and has the true essence of what calligraphy is about. I love the water-based paints; I like how quickly they dry and how they have a great flow for working with calligraphy.”
Calligraphy is an enchanting beauty. It is considered the ultimate form of Islamic art because it provides a link between the Arabic language and the religion of Islam. The Holy Qur’an has played an important role in the evolution of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy. Proverbs, poems and verses from the Qur’an are used for Arabic calligraphy.
Due to Islam’s ban on pictorial representation, artists could not use drawings to illustrate the Holy Qur’an. Therefore, calligraphy became a highly respected expression of art. To this day, Arabic calligraphy is a major form of art, symbolizing both beauty and unity. One can appreciate Arabic calligraphy by following the movement of the calligrapher’s hand and observing how the letters come to life in a continuous flowing stroke. The masterly and creative touch of the calligrapher transforms the letters into a spectacular composition. Sometimes, the writing resembles the shape of a star, a mosque or even an animal such as a bird. The great Massoudy is one of the masters of this genre.
After her graduation, Hibrawi who majored in illustration and graphic design, worked as a graphic designer for a distribution company. There was a time when she wondered if she could make a living as an artist and whether people would understand and appreciate her art.
“Wow was I wrong! I have gotten so much support from the community from both Arabs and non-Arabs alike. It has truly been humbling. You know it’s not easy and every day is a struggle, but when you’re passionate about something, you find a way to make it work. My family and friends have supported me along the way; without them, I would not be where I am today,” she said.
In 2004, she quit her job and started her own company,, with a friend, Judy Fleenor. The idea behind the company is to provide affordable portraits on canvas from your favorite photos. All you need to do is send a photo online and then choose what style and size you want. You are assigned an artist who will fulfill the order and you will receive your painting in the mail within two to three weeks.
Contrary to what we might think, many of her collectors are young who wish to possess a painting that reminds them of their culture in a modern way. As a result, they want a work of art that is fresh and contemporary, full of color with modern lines, but still holds true to the tradition of calligraphy.
Hibrawi’s solo exhibition, which was held in Washington DC in 2007, was very successful. Consequently, Arab News named her an “artistic ambassador.” As an artistic ambassador, she gives lectures on her work throughout the US. Her paintings have been acquired for the permanent collection at the Arab American National Museum in Detroit, Michigan. In 2008, she was selected by the “US Art in Embassies Program” to showcase her work for the United States Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Kurt Volker in Brussels in Belgium. As a result, she was invited by the US State Department to show her artwork in a 2010 US Embassy wall calendar, which is to be distributed to US embassies worldwide.
Hibrawi is presently working on her forthcoming painting exhibition, which is due to open in 2011. Always on the lookout for new ideas, she was inspired by a trip she made to Syria while visiting her family’s hometown in Aleppo. She loved the picturesque old souks and the imposing citadel. While she was taking photographs, she noticed the way natural light “bounced off” the buildings: “It was really beautiful. So my new collection will be all about light,” she said.
Yearning for a deeper meaning behind religion, Hibrawi expresses her innermost quest for spirituality on canvas. Her paintings are an open invitation to search for the truth.


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