WOOD MEMORIES WITH HOUSSAM KANAAN

WOOD MEMORIES WITH HOUSSAM KANAAN

 KANN FOUNDERS WITH HOUSSAM KANAAN IN THE MIDDLE

KANN FOUNDERS WITH HOUSSAM KANAAN IN THE MIDDLE

From Paris to Beirut or his village Beit Chabeb, Houssam Kanaan is a real craftsman of time. Not only he travels through cities but he also takes us in a beautiful journey to discover sleek design from the fifties. Graduated in Marketing in France, Houssam has reinvented his family heritage by founding KANN, a design furniture brand. Rooted in Lebanon, KANN has now several points of sales in France.

THE CONFUSED ARAB: Amongst several other brands of design, we really feel the “identity dimension” in KANN, can you please tell us more about this specific identity?

HOUSSAM KANAAN:  KANN is the meeting point between a brand created in Paris and a family wood workshop founded by my father in Lebanon in 1958. This is a family story where the central point is the full artisanal production in Beit Chabeb in Lebanon. I have a very important link with the workshop as one of the triggers of KANN was to support Lebanese traditional cabinetmakers’ know-how. Since 3 generations, we all have this fusional relation with wood: my grand-father was carpenter, my father an cabinetmaker and I am myself prolonging this heritage. Working with my father in Lebanon makes the identity, my own identity, being the key pillar of the project. KANN’s specificity can be found in this mix between editing modern, sleek furniture with international designers and producing in a traditional Lebanese workshop.

TCA: We can feel that the design of your furniture, has a bit of nostalgic touch. How would you describe your style?

HK: Indeed, there’s this vintage look with a twist. This 1950’s look is our signature as it refers to the period when my father created the workshop in 1958. At that time, he got a very important order of a full set to completely furnish a house. As an anecdote, my father succeeded in this mission with his very sophisticated and elegant items and ended up getting married with my mother who was the daughter of this important client!

Taking this style as a signature base, we play a lot with designs and materials. New kinds of woods and additions to the original lines keep being added.  For example we are using lacquer on the finishing to give a modern final touch. Our craftsmen are themselves always asking for these innovations as it allows them to reinvent their jobs. In our latest collection, on some items as the RAWKE chair we use ‘canage’ (cane work) a material displaying my link with Lebanon.

 RAWKE CHAIR BY KANN USING CANE WORK "CANAGE"

RAWKE CHAIR BY KANN USING CANE WORK "CANAGE"

TCA: How Beirut, a city where you have lived or at least commuted for several years, does inspire you?

HK: Beirut inspires me by its energy. It’s an ongoing whirlwind where I always have to meet people. I visit every 3 months and it’s always a marathon.  I am shared between my friends and the craftsmen. Meeting artisans is what I prefer and I do on a daily basis. These people do inspire me as they are strong characters, maintaining traditions. I can speak about one of the best “Tourneur de bois” “M3alem Kamel” who always pays attention to details and he is very cautious about his work. My Beirut is all these people, doing their best to maintain traditions. I also enjoy socializing with friends to the extent that I always say that in Beirut I am like a teenager!

TCA: What do you miss the most when you are out of Beirut?

HK: Naturally, I would say the food. We do have good food in Paris but I miss having Manoushe on morning! A lot of people who have lived in Beirut have a complex relation to the city, both painful and passionate. Looking at how Downtown, the traditional city center, has been turned into an open-air mall is an aberration.  I am more attracted by areas which remain a bit more authentic as Mar Mikhail. Thanks to KANN, I don’t miss Lebanon, Beit Chabeb or Beirut the way I used to before. Visiting Lebanon every 2 months, I found a great balance that enables me to have a real relation with the country. At the beginning in Paris, it was difficult for me to find myself in the “classic migrant life” where you are back only for holidays.

TCA: If Beirut was an objet?

HK: It will be a very beautiful but uncomfortable chair. Every time I look at it I would be tempted to sit on it even though I know that it is not cosy. I was thinking of the NOSS Chair that we have at KANN. But no. Beirut is more beautiful. A chaotic beauty.

 NOSS CHAIR BY KANN

NOSS CHAIR BY KANN

For more information, you can check KANN INSTAGRAM and KANN website

BEIRUTI INTERVIEW WITH JOE ARIDA

BEIRUTI INTERVIEW WITH JOE ARIDA

JOE ARRIDA

True Beirut kid, Joe Arida is a multifaceted creative. His sharp eye took him from advertising to creative direction, interior design to fashion on which he is now focusing with his label “LA TERRE EST FOLLE” (“the world is mad”).

Part of the fashion incubator “STARCH” founded by Rabih Kayrouz, “LA TERRE EST FOLLE” is a deeply hedonistic brand, like Joe Arida, finding beauty everywhere but strongly attached to the B City, its geography and underground culture.  From revisited traditional Lebanese Abaya to patched jeans jackets or his latest collaboration with L’Armoire de Lana, Arida’s planet is crazy but always stylish.  

 

1/THECONFUSEDARAB: Hi or Bonjourr?
  JOE ARIDA: Bonjouuuur


2/TCA: Uber or Service?
  JA:Service - love it, but Uber

 

3/TCA: Fairuz or Sabah? 

  JA: Fairuz’s Lunar grace and Sabah's sunny vitality - but definitely Fairuz’s music, it is the essence of Lebanon.

 

IMG_1396 copy 3.JPG

4/TCA: Kibbé Ma2liyé or Kibbé Nayé?
  JA: Kibbé Nayé.


5/TCA:Turkish Coffee or Café Blanc?
  JA: Turkish coffee to speed up, café blanc to slow down.


6/TCA:Skybar or BO18?
  JA: BO18


7/Khayé or Bro?
 JA: Khayé


8/TCA: Cigarette or Arghilé?
 JA:Cigarette


9/TCA: Sporting or Faraya?
JA: Both on the same day.


10/TCA: What's your favourite Lebanese word?
JA: YALLA!

 

GLOSSARY:

*SERVICE: Traditional Beiruti taxi taking several passengers at the same time. It also refers to the taxi driver himself. Service generally chooses your itinerary and they are source of million urban stories.

* KIBBE MA2LIE: Fried kibbé, mix of minced meat and bulghur.

* KIBBE NAYE: Raw kibbé, with raw meat.

*SKYBAR: Used to be an institution of Beirut commercial night on the top of Biel.

* FARAYA: Ski station located 46 km North from Beirut.

WORDS OF PASSION WITH JESSICA SEMAAN

WORDS OF PASSION WITH JESSICA SEMAAN

Jessica Semaan is a poet. She writes english poetry and does it well.

Now a rising star of Medium (https://medium.com/@jessicasemaan) where more of 35K followers wait impatiently for her new writings on love, relationships and identity.

Born and raised in Beirut, Jessica moved to California to attend Stanford Business School. After a successful experience at Airbnb, she decided to set up The Passionco (http://www.thepassion.co/) a coaching and personal development company.

You can get a chance to see Jessica between San Francisco, Paris or Beirut where we have met her to discuss about home, identities and what does inspire her.

THE CONFUSED ARAB (TCA): The majority of your poems are about love and how we face (or not) difficulties in life. Is defining your identity was a hard process? Is it still on-going?

JESSICA SEMAAN (JS): Defining my identity is at the center of my inner path. A part of me is very attached and influenced by the Arab culture I grew up in: family values, hospitality, making your own rules (that is especially Lebanese), caring for your seet (reputation), joie de vivre, patriarchalism. The other part, that has been influenced by living as an adult in California, is influenced by individualization, becoming the self, solitude, sometimes loneliness, finding your own personal path, no judgement, and freedom. In my work as a writer, I am finding my voice conversing to being a blend of both worlds, without compromising or choosing, instead evolving. 

TCA: When have you started to write? Any specific element which has triggered your writing?

JS: My great grand father was a well respected poetry professor in Beirut. My father is a journalist and writer. I'd like to think of the craft / art of writing as a gift that was passed down to me. The first time someone noticed my writing, was when I was 12. My french teacher, who got assassinated a few years later, approached me after winning a poetry contest, and told me to never stop writing. 

I resumed writing consistently after encountering burn out about two years later. I have not stopped since.

TCA: In your poem you wrote "You are a refugee of a home that does not exist"- what's your relation with Beirut?

JS: I wrote a piece on being Lebanese. It summarizes my relationship with Beirut.  Beirut and I have a complex relationship, of adoration and pain. Perhaps, Beirut mirrors my relationship with my mother. And just like a mother, Beirut will always be in my life. I have no choice.

TCA: What do you miss when you are not in Beirut?

JS: I miss the nights of Beirut. The energy that makes me come out every night. The warmth of people. The fact that we all kind of know each other, so it feels like a big fat family. I also miss the random tourists that come, because for them to come to Lebanon, they have to be risk takers. 

TCA:If Beirut were a poem, what would it be?

JS: It would be a sensual poem to a woman who breaks men's hearts. 

When you don’t know where home is

Wherever you go is a foreign land

Where you live is a city of roaming strangers

Where you came from is painful and deceiving

Where you are heading to is nowhere to be found

You are too old, too jaded, or too broke to go anywhere new

So you feel stuck, stuck in the walls of your own handmade jail

You are a refugee of a home that does not exist

Then you think, in your desperation, what if home is someone

The lover you have not met, the partner you already live with, your friend from childhood

Then you cling to that someone, you surrender to their love and approval

But the moment comes where you realize they are not home

They are them and you are you

There are no home you can own

And the truth hits hard: no one is home and no where is home

You envy even more those who have it, those who found it, those who brag about it

And in your misery, you stop looking for a home

It is neither north, nor south

It is neither east, nor west

Home is no place, no people

Home is moments

 Moments when you feel safe and loved

Home is a stranger you meet on a plane who pours their hearts to you

Home is the scent of your favorite dish as you were growing up

Home is drinking with your best friend, laughing and crying at your bad decisions

                                                                               Home is the laugh of your new born child

                                                                                                                    JESSICA SEMAAN

Jessica2.jpg

BEIRUTI INTERVIEW WITH NADINE KANSO

BEIRUTI INTERVIEW WITH NADINE KANSO

Every month, we will meet creative minds from the featured city for an insider interview. Starting the 'Beiruti interview' with Dubai-based Nadine Kanso is a great example of how identity and beauty can become one.

 Nadine Kanso                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Credit: Bilarabi

Nadine Kanso                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Credit: Bilarabi

Born in Beirut, where she studied Advertising Design and Communication Arts , Nadine moved to Dubai in the early 2000 where she has then found a new home. Thanks to her creative photographs, Nadine participated to collaborative projects as‘Arabize me” part of of the “Friday Night at the V&A” programme at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY NADINE KANSO

Her motto “Be proud of your heritage” took her to exhibit collage works in leading galleries such as Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde and now Cuadro in Dubai.

In parallel, Nadine developed one of the most self-conscious jewelry brand, BilArabi (www.bilarabi.ae), a real homage to the Arabic language, magnificently valorized through very distinct aesthetic combining precious metals and stones.

 Al Hobb ring from Mina Collection                                                                                                                                                        Credit: Bilarabi

Al Hobb ring from Mina Collection                                                                                                                                                        Credit: Bilarabi

 

1/THE CONFUSED ARAB (TCA) :Hi or Bonjourr?

NADINE KANSO (NK): Bonjour

2/TCA: Uber or Service?

NK: Service

3/TCA: Fairuz or Sabah?

NK: Fairuz

4/TCA: Kibbé Ma2liyé or Kibbé Nayé?

NK: Kibbé nayé jnoubiyé, from South Lebanon

5/TCA:Turkish Coffee or Café Blanc?

NK: Café blanc

6/TCA: Skybar or BO18?

NK: BO18

7/TCA: Khayé or Bro?

NK: Khayé

8/TCA: Cigarette or Arghilé?

NK: Cigar

9/TCA: Sporting or Faraya?

NK: Sporting

10/TCA:What's your favourite lebanese word?

NK: “Shou fi ma fi” (what’s up?)

 Ya 3ein earrings                                                                                                                                                                                  Credit: Bilarabi

Ya 3ein earrings                                                                                                                                                                                  Credit: Bilarabi

GLOSSARY:

*SERVICE: Traditional Beiruti taxi taking several passengers at the same time. It also refers to the taxi driver himself. Service generally chooses your itinerary and they are source of million urban stories.

* KIBBE MA2LIE: Fried kibbé, mix of minced meat and bulghur.

* KIBBE NAYE: Raw kibbé, with raw meat.

*SKYBAR: Used to be an institution of Beirut commercial night on the top of Biel.

* FARAYA: Ski station located 46 km North from Beirut.

FROM WALLS TO FACES WITH YAZAN HALWANI

FROM WALLS TO FACES WITH YAZAN HALWANI

Anyone visiting Beirut has seen Yazan Halwani’s street art: Fairuz in Gemmayze or Sabah in Hamra. Yazan has painted in different countries such as the UAE, Tunisia, France and Singapore and he is considered as one of the most talented Arab graffiti artists of his generation.  By reinventing Arabic calligraphy, from purely abstractive to figurative, Yazan Halwani is defining a new Beiruti identity. Over the past few years, the 23 year-old artist works have become major sightseeings around the city. We have met him to discuss his relationship with his hometown, Beirut.

 

THE CONFUSED ARAB (TCA): How does  Arab identity (and especially yours) influence your work?

YAZAN HALWANI (YH): My identity is at the center of all my work. However, it is not a monolithic identity as it can be split between who I am and my environment. I started doing regular graffiti in the late 1990’s using latin alphabet inspired by what is done in the US and in France. Then I quickly started to interrogate myself on how to bring more of who I am into my work. The general perception was that if you want to be an Arab, you have to stick to classic rules. Arabic calligraphy was here, very traditional, with the same styles and fonts being used since centuries.  Arabic calligraphers are very keen to maintain these styles.It was and still is very easy to reject this status quo but I went into the way of reconciling my heritage with the modern art.

My personal identity mixes also with my environment. I was born and grew up in Beirut, a city polarized by political and sectarian cultures. Political parties split up the space and impose their presence with pictures of their leaders throughout entire streets. As a citizen of Beirut, I couldn’t accept this space segregation. One of the main purpose of my work is to show and develop a non-sectarian culture common to all Beirutis and all Lebanese.

TCA: Is that how you explain the choice of famous icons painted in the streets of Beirut?

YH: Exactly, I wanted to focus on secular faces. These icons are a great way of defining cultural common bases for people in Beirut far away from religion or political views. It is also linked to specific locations of the city having a relation with these icons like Sabah and Mahmud Darwish, close to Al Safir newspaper’s headquarter in Hamra for example. However, I am not trying to impose my opinion on people and by choosing these icons I am aiming to open a discussion on who we are. Selecting these legends is also a way to leverage on nostalgia. It does work as a filter as a lot of people think that the social and political situation was better before. People do remember what they want to remember. In Lebanon, nostalgia is an easy way to convey a message.

My artworks are not provocative but softly polemical.  Fairuz or Sabah are now acclaimed but that has not always been the case.  Women artists still share a schizophrenic relation with their audience, acclaimed for their talents, beauty but also still perceived as being of a small virtue. Sabah, who got married 7 times, was often criticized for living a free life far from social rules.

TCA: How does Beirut inspire you?

YH: The energy of the city is definitely something which inspires me and that we all embrace. People are always trying to find a way to do things. Artistically you can easily have access to art. Visually, my work was also inspired by “Aftat” the white cloth banners with black or red text that you can find everywhere in the streets of Beirut, specially in Hamra or Gemmayze. It’s like a trap: it uses very neat Arabic calligraphy which catches your attention and make you read political or governmental messages

TCA: What do you miss when you are away from Beirut?

YH: Walking in the streets is something very simple but which makes me very happy in Beirut. The city is like a big village where everybody knows each other. You canbump into people in the street and change your schedule for the day!

TCA: If Beirut was an image?

YH: I have always imagined Beirut as a woman, a battered woman or a hooker. A battered woman as years after years it always gets abused by politicians who don’t really take the full potential of the city. A hooker because we all travel in and out, claiming that we can’t continue to live this way in this city but as soon as we are far from it we miss it, sometimes in a very passionate way.