Etal Adnan was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon to a Greek mother and a Syrian father she was a pupil at French convent schools and so was multi lingual as a child. Etal studied Philosophy in Paris , Berkely and Harvard. As a graduate in America she taught Philosophy at the Dominican University of California. Later she returned to Lebanon working as a journalist.
This multi-lingual intellectual has created a multitude of books that embrace her thoughts in colour, symbol, calligraphy and word creating a poetry that can be interpreted and understood in many different tongues. These poems are often presented in the form of concertina books; 'leporellos' walking us through her thoughts in folds of communication.
The poetry presented is usually that of XXth century Arab poets and Etal is able to let us access these works across boundaries of language and culture by presenting them in a way that has many layers of meaning and access.
"I started to make artist's books in 1964. They are Japanese "books" that are folded, made in Kyoto. I buy them in San Francisco, New York or Paris, in Japanese stores. I usually write on them poems from the major XXth century Arab Poets, mainly from Badr Shaker al Sayyab. I accompany these hand written poems with watercolours and drawings. I made a point of not using classical calligraphy, although it’s an art-form I value extremely, in order to use my own hand writing for its very imperfection. The result is a real translation of the original Arabic poems into a visual equivalence. This Japanese format - where the paper unfolds - creates an horizontal plane that seems to be infinite, and that goes beyond the traditional frame of painted works. This way, the texts and the images are liberated. I would like to remind the reader that I have been the first Arab painter besides Shaker Hassan al Saïd to start a trend in Arab Art, the one concerning the use of personal, non traditional and calligraphic writing, in Arab Art.” Etel Adnan