Having inspired everyone from The Beatles to John F Kennedy and Indira Gandhi – the influence and impact of Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran’s work is seismic. A true revolutionary, Gibran’s relevance has long “transcended space and time” confirms Dana, whose theatre adaptation of ‘Broken Wings’ debuted on London’s West End, “his mind resided outside the confines of the contemporary, and his work reflected that” she adds. Having been born in a village in Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, Gibran and his family immigrated to the US when he was a child. Like most young children raised in the West, Gibran was drawn to the contemporary aesthetics of his new homeland – but was inherently spiritually tied to his homeland. After a stint back home in Beirut, Gibran studied Arabic literature; a move that would shape the remainder of his creative output. Best-known for his seminal work ‘The Prophet’—which unravels themes surrounding life and the human condition—Gibran remains one of the world’s greatest literary icons. But what about the women who helped shape and inspire his creativity? He once wrote that “women hold both the soil of the past and the seeds of the future". These are the three women who inspired Kahlil Gibran.
As a fundamental pillar in his life, Gibran’s mother heavily influenced his creative work and his perspective of women as a whole. Noting her son’s inclination towards the arts, his mother gifted him a series of Leonardo da Vinci prints when he was six-years-old. His mother was his compass. She was an unrelenting source of support and strength. After his father’s incarceration for gambling debts, his mother chose to leave the Lebanese village of Bsharri and sought a new beginning in New York with her children. In ‘The Broken Wings’, Gibran penned the greatest ode to his mother, writing: “The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word "Mother," and the most beautiful call is the call of "My mother." It is a word full of hope and love, a sweet and kind word coming from the depths of the heart. The mother is everything; she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness.”
Immortalised in ‘The Broken Wings’ – Gibran’s first true love, Selma Karamy, was a major muse for the Lebanese writer. “I was 18-years-old when love opened my eyes with its magic rays and touched my spirit for the first time with its fiery fingers” he wrote. Unfortunately, Selma was pushed into an arranged marriage, to which Gibran said “the woman, a commodity purchased and delivered from one house to another like a piece of furniture.” He lamented, “will the day ever come when the knowledge ingenuity virtue and strength of women will be celebrated?.... Selma was a shining symbol of the future, but like so many ahead of her time, she was a victim of the present.”
Born in Palestine to a Lebanese father and Palestinian mother, Ziadeh wrote a letter to Gibran expressing her admiration for ‘The Broken Wings’. Sharing a joint perspective and passion for women’s rights, the duo would become close confidants and pen pals. As an outspoken feminist, Ziadeh became a champion of Gibran’s literary works. Despite the fact that the duo never actually met in real life, they maintained a supportive and reciprocal relationship by letter up until Gibran’s death in 1931.