Numerous public monuments honoring significant writers from the 19th and 20th centuries may be seen across New York. Notable figures such as Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, and Gertrude Stein have been honored with sculptures and statues. However, it is a rarity to find an Arab personality among these esteemed individuals. But soon, this is set to change. A new marble sculpture will be unveiled in late 2023, commemorating the late Lebanese-American writer, artist, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, who passed away in New York in 1931. This addition comes at a fitting time, as it coincides with the 100th anniversary of Gibran's renowned literary masterpiece, "The Prophet," which continues to offer timeless wisdom to readers.
The concept for the sculpture originated from the Kahlil Gibran Collective, a nonprofit online platform dedicated to all things related to Gibran. Glen Kalem-Habib, the founder of the collective, expresses his enthusiasm, stating that this will be the first monument-sculpture dedicated to Gibran in New York. He points out the irony that while monuments honoring Gibran exist in Boston and Washington DC, there has yet to be one in New York, the very city where Gibran resided and penned "The Prophet."
The chosen location for the sculpture is the garden of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, which was in close proximity to Gibran's former apartment that no longer stands today. This placement holds significant meaning as it is believed to be the site of the first public reading of "The Prophet" in 1923. Rather than opting for a traditional bust of the author, the monument will be inspired by a symbolist drawing created by Gibran himself titled "Hand of God," which originally adorned the cover of "The Prophet." Additionally, the sculpture will include an accessible podium for live recitals. Lebanese artist Rudy Rahme, who hails from the same village as Gibran, Bcharre, is tasked with bringing this vision to life. The structure will resemble a hand with emerging "human flames."
The organizers aim to unveil the statue on September 21, the same date "The Prophet" was published a century ago. A number of events, including a formal dinner and a seminar at the nearby Lebanese American University, will take place in conjunction with the unveiling ceremony.
Currently, the team is actively engaged in fundraising efforts and has garnered support from academia and Alfred A. Knopf, Gibran's publishing company. However, more support is needed to bring this project to fruition. Kalem-Habib expresses the importance of spreading the message and garnering further backing for the initiative.