Dar al-Fata al-Arabi > Mohieddine al-Labbad > Introduction
Born in Cairo in 1940, Mohieddine al-Labbad studied painting at its Academy of Fine Arts, and then worked as an illustrator and caricaturist for the magazines Roz el-Yousef and Sabah al-Khayr. In 1974, he joined the nascent Dar al-Fata al-Arabi, which had just been established by Dr. Nabil Sha’ath. Dar al-Fata had strong commitments to the Palestinian cause, to progressive politics, and to the creation of a pan-Arab cultural agenda that focused on the "Arab child", catering to his/her needs, outlook, taste and concerns. All of this appealed tremendously to al-Labbad, and he set out with great enthusiasm: beginning his work there in May, al-Labbad managed to bring out some 67 new works by the end of the year! Al-Labbad established exceptionally high standards at the “Dar”, demanding the very best from himself and his staff, who nicknamed him "Mr. Millimeter". He recruited authors and illustrators from several Arab countries, and worked intensively with them in order to raise standards for the execution of high-quality children's books. Many of the books he produced (even after he left Dar al-Fata) went on to win prizes, e.g. awards for Best Children’s Book in Arabic from the Beirut Book Fair and from the Leipzig International Book Fair, the prestigious Golden Apple award at the Biennial of Illustration in Bratislava, the Octogone de Chêne from the Centre International d’Études en Littérature de Jeunesse in France, and the Swiss Blaue Brillenschlange award for his amazing Kashkoul el Rassam.
Al-Labbad ‘s keen eye, tongue-in cheek-sense of humor, connection to grassroots culture and open mindedness made him equally at ease with pop cultural symbols and with classical Arabic references and texts. And his ethical and political commitment to Arab nationalism and its causes (Palestine) inspired him to integrate into his work deeply resonant cultural symbols and to mold them into bold, stylized and powerful images that, together with clever texts, succeeded in capturing and distilling the mood of the historical moment being witnessed by the Arab nations. He rightly earned the title of "Maker of Books".