Art of the land


The Le­banese Bas­bous broth­ers, a fam­ily of pro­lific sculp­tors, paved the way for mod­ern­ern sculp­ture in Le­banon. Their out­door sculp­ture­ture park in Rachana re­veals a deep con­nec­tionn to the na­ture of the re­gion, and it’s one that’ss been passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion

Set in a lus­cious land­scape of rolling hills, the wind­ing coun­try road to Rachana is marked by large sculp­tures that have be­come part of the land­scape along­side almond and olive trees – or­ganic forms made from stone, wood and metal. Set in the Ba­troun re­gion, the vil­lage of Rachana is a kind of open-air art mu­seum for the work of Michel, Al­fred and Youssef Bas­bous, sculp­tors whose le­gacy re­mains deeply in­ter­twined with the iden­tity of the area. Though the three Bas­bous broth­ers who brought fame to the sleepy vil­lage have long since passed away, their imprint on the iden­tity of Rachana re­mains. But the vil­lage isn’t a ster­ile mu­seum to the past; their sons have in­her­ited that artis­tic her­itage, along with a deep con­nec­tion to the area, and con­tinue to cre­ate sculp­tures from their stu­dios in the vil­lage. Na­bil Bas­bous, the son of Youssef, ap­pears from his stu­dio with clay­cov­ered hands and wild wiry grey hair. He’s in the process of sculpt­ing molds for three re­li­gious icons, to be cast in bronze or mar­ble. It’s no sur­prise his work is in­spired by the land­scape; his stu­dio is lo­cated be­low a quirky stone house perched on the edge of a val­ley with an in­cred­i­ble view. The col­or­ful in­te­rior of his home is filled with mini stud­ies of his life-size sculp­tures, wooden trees and na­ture-in­spired forms. The Bas­bous fam­ily con­nec­tion to the area can be traced back four gen­er­a­tions, when three broth­ers, orig­i­nat­ing from the nearby vil­lage, Maad, moved across the hill, then the un­in­hab­ited Rachana. Sculp­tor Michel, Na­bil’s un­cle, was the first in the fam­ily whose work gained recog­ni­tion, en­cour­aged by then pres­i­dent’s wife Zel­pha Chamoun. In 1958, dur­ing the cul­tural golden age of Beirut, he de­cided to re­turn to Rachana with the dream of cre­at­ing an art vil­lage. “There was a bad po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion be­fore the civil war,” Na­bil says. “He de­cided to come to Rachana and bring the peo­ple of Beirut to the vil­lage. Michel be­lieved that art and Rachana was con­nected.” Michel trans­formed the vil­lage cre­at­ing open-air sculp­tures with a back­drop of the sur­round­ing land­scape, which his broth­ers con­tin­ued to add to. “[The broth­ers] were in­spired from the trees, the clouds, na­ture,” Na­bil says. “They made art to in­te­grate into the land­scape.” Rachana be­came a hub of ac­tiv­ity for the arts when Michel cre­ated

The streets of Rachana

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