This exhibition presents a sample of the work of Dar al-Fata al-Arabi, a remarkable and influential publisher of children’s books in the Arab world. Founded in Beirut in 1974, Dar al-Fata, along with its Iraqi counterpart Dar Thaqafat al-Atfal, broke the mold of the traditional Arabic children magazines of the time, which for the most part offered up didactic tales accompanied by lackluster illustrations. Dar al-Fata succeeded in raising the bar immensely by engaging prominent litterateurs to craft original Arabic texts and leading artists to forge a new aesthetic. Authors managed to render scientific, historical, and cultural content in ways that were both accessible and linked with the crucial social and political issues of the time; and illustrators deployed the latest graphical techniques to create images full of whimsy, vibrant colors, and expressive force that drew on deeply resonant cultural and emotional symbols. Progressive politics, a strong rootedness in concerns of social justice and in the Palestinian Question, and the idea of solidarity among the Global South fueled many of the publications. This makes Dar al-Fata’s publications compelling witnesses not only of a highly specialized nascent artistic and educational medium, Arabic children's books, but also of the social and political turmoil, the creativity, and the rich cultural, ideological and theoretical debates and commitments which the region was witnessing. The overall hope and impetus was to address--and at the same time to form-- "al-fata al-Arabi", the Arab child of the future, and thus to make a significant contribution to the development of Arab national movements. The material showcased here gives a glimpse of the rich content Dar al-Fata offers to scholars. Dar al-Fata’s work helps to open windows and to reveal a treasure-trove of material that can inform the study of the visual arts, as well as nationalism, gender, modernity, social and political commitment, and the construction of identity and childhood in the Arab world. The exhibit also highlights the work of one of Dar al-Fata’s leading illustrators, and most prominent Art Director, and visionaries, Mohieddine al-Labbad.Exhibit Curators: Hana Sleiman and Kaoukab Chebaro.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks go to Dalya Nouh and Rana Kassas for their support in content development, to Mona Assi, Sara Jawad, Layale Bassil, and Hicham Zahnan for their technical support, and to Mrs. Hasna Mikdashi for providing us with some Dar al-Fata material, and for granting us an interview.