On Friday, December 6, at the Los Angeles Central Library in downtown, nearly 200 members of the Lebanese diaspora came to witness an historic event. Guests traveled from throughout California, the United States and Lebanon. Commemorated by artist Victor Issa and donated by the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) , the unveiling of a bronze bust depicting Gibran Khalil Gibran represented both the literary and philosophical genius of a Lebanese icon as well as the unending perseverance of the community to ensure the bust found its rightful home.
Lebanese community members from the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU) including its president, California Ladies Organization, House of Lebanon and many others attended the event, which began with a reception in the atrium courtyard of the Library and moved into a formal setting of the auditorium. It was there that excerpts of Gibran’s famous works were recited, a short video was screened, and several political and community leaders took the stage to pay homage to Gibran and his contribution to American culture and philosophy.
Located in the International Languages Reading Room of the Central Library, Gibran’s bust will certainly have its share of visitors. According to City Librarian John Szabo, Los Angeles boasts the largest library system in the United States with 14 million people visiting branches each year and approximately 5,000 patrons visiting the Central Library each day.
Gibran is best known for his 1923 book of prose poetry, The Prophet, which has been translated in over 42 different languages and has sold over 10 million copies in the United States alone. Born in 1883 in Bsharri, Lebanon, he and his family moved to the United States when he was young. Settling in Boston, Massachusetts, Gibran was a writer and visual artist from the start. He traveled in his life and died in 1931 at age 48 in New York City. In honor of his literary contributions, monuments to Gibran exist in major cities around the country. This is Los Angeles’ first official commemoration to him.
The glass base of the bust reads:
The teacher who walks in the shadows of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom, but rather of his faith and lovingness.
A fitting quotation from the many penned by Gibran, this bust will serve as a daily reminder of the intersectional cultural influence of Gibran’s work and his beloved fame as a voice of generations of Lebanese.
For more information on Gibran’s life and work, consult your local library for biographies, other works of poetry and prose, and even Gibran’s watercolor paintings.