AUB Etel Adnan Symposium

FEBRUARY 23–24, 2023




In homage to Etel Adnan (1925–2021), this symposium brings together academic research with personal testimonies and cultural practices to explore her life and work across countries, languages, and exiles. Born in Beirut to a Greek Christian mother from Smyrna and an Arab Muslim father from Damascus who served as an officer in the Ottoman Empire, Etel Adnan’s life begins in the aftermath of World War I and spans almost a century. Deeply grounded in humanistic inquiry, her work breaks free of literary and artistic confinesand embraces the universe in intimate and critical yet joyful ways.

This symposium is organized with the generous support of the American University of Beirut’s Alwaleed Center for American Studies and Research, Sheikh Zayed Chair in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Department of English, and University Libraries.

Organised by Sonja Mejcher-Atassi (

Nadia von Maltzahn is participating with a paper entitled Journalism, Painting and Friendships: Etel Adnan in Lebanon’s art world of the 1970s

During her early years in California, Etel Adnan never lost touch with life in Beirut, to which she returned regularly. Encouraged by friends, she moved back to Lebanon in 1972 to take up a position in the newly founded francophone newspaper as Safa. Responsible for the cultural pages, her interviews with some of the leading artists of the time give insights into Lebanon’s art world of the time, which was booming with exhibitions. At the same time, her front-page opinion pieces and longer reportages poignantly highlight some of the pressing social and political problems of the time, be it in Lebanon or elsewhere. In this presentation, Adnan’s presence in and contribution to Lebanon’s art world of the 1970s will be analysed, starting with her journalistic activity in as Safa, for which she also illustrated poems by some of the leading poets of the time. She remained active as a poet herself. The Arabic translation of her poem “Five Senses for One Death” by Youssef al-Khal in 1973 was illustrated by Simone Fattal, their first joint project that was launched in Gallery One in September 1973. This project will be introduced before moving to Etel Adnan’s work as an artist and her first solo exhibition in Lebanon at Dar el Fan in late 1973, as well as her participation at the 9th Salon d’Automne of the Sursock Museum in 1974. It will become clear that Etel Adnan was an integral part of Lebanon’s artistic and intellectual life of the 1970s, a period in which she formed or consolidated friendships that shaped her journey until the end.

See the full programme here:

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Nadia von Maltzahn (February 13, 2023). AUB Etel Adnan Symposium. LAWHA Lebanon's Art World at Home and Abroad. Retrieved July 25, 2024 from

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