The Tarbouche Project at the Saatchi Gallery London

The Tarbouche Project at the Saatchi Gallery London

The Tarbouche has long been a symbol of masculinity in the Arab world. Although it may not be the case among the newer generations, the tarbouche continues to be a popular symbol of Middle Eastern culture, history and tradition.

French-Lebanese artist, Mouna Rebeiz held her first solo exhibition in London at the Saatchi Gallery in February of 2015, entitled “Le Tarbouche.”

For her big debut in the London art world, Rebeiz’s exhibition was part of her ongoing work with the female form, using the tarbouche to express the female as a complex combination of the dominant and submissive, the sophisticated and the vulnerable. She uses various techniques from the Old Masters of art to examine contemporary issues, her paintings creating a bridge between two worlds: East and West, male and female.

Open to influences from both Lebanon and France, Rebeiz became fascinated at an early age with the emphasis both cultures place on the dual role of the woman; the essence of femininity as an incongruous mix of soft sensuality and commanding sophistication. This childhood preoccupation comes to the fore in her latest conceptual collection, placing the masculine symbol of the tarbouche at odds with its traditional usage, and reinventing it as a new feminine emblem.

“The question of femininity has always been at stake for me, as it is an inexhaustible subject combining the interior (the soul) and the exterior (the body). At the time when society speaks so much of gender, it has never been so important to reflect upon the very essence of (in the words of philosopher
and psychoanalyst Elsa Godart) ‘the women-being,’” says Rebeiz.

“To portray this universality and to show just how far the women-being surpasses all the stereotypes, I choose a predominantly strong male symbol, the tarbouche. To put the tarbouche on the head of a naked woman is to reclaim the place of the woman in the world. I have hijacked the tarbouche to make it an emblem of femininity.”

“I am proud to be Levantine, one of the oldest civilizations. Europa, princess of Tyre, gave her name to Europe, not to mention Byblos is HOME to the origin of the alphabet. My Lebanese heritage was my major inspiration,” she adds.

Rebeiz was born in Lebanon, into a family of artists, and demonstrated creativity in abundance from an early age. She also showed a particular interest in plastic arts. Growing up amidst musicians, artists and poets, notes and verse later influenced her work.

Fascinated by the human-being and its psyche, she dedicated herself to the study of psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris and she completed her master’s degree in psychology at Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut.

She has exhibited internationally, mainly in Paris, with shows at Galerie Hubert Konrad, Galerie Pierre Alain Challier and the Foundation Ricard.

The Auction

To complement the exhibition, Rebeiz partnered with various influential names from the worlds of art, fashion and design to continue the dialogue of her exhibition. Notable names like Lanvin, Twiggy, Pucci, Elie Saab, Star Diamond, Philip Treacy, Giles Deacon and Sandra Choi of Jimmy Choo, among others, each reinvented a tarbouche in their own style to be auctioned by Sotheby’s following the exhibition.

All the proceeds from the tarbouche auction, as well as proceeds from the sale of Rebeiz’s paintings, were donated to Innocence in Danger, a charity close to her heart. Innocence in Danger is a world movement for the protection of children against any form of sexual abuse.