Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, Immigration Museum

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Gibran 1

Detail: Installation – Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, photo by Belinda McDowall

Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, a commissioned thought provoking exhibition with support from the Council for Australian-Arab Relations of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is now showing at the Immigration Museum, Melbourne until March 17, 2018.

“Life sings in our silences, and dreams in our slumber. Even when we are beaten and low, Life is enthroned and high. And when we weep, Life smiles upon the day, and is free even when we drag our chains”.

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Detail: Installation – Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, photo by Belinda McDowall

The exhibition reflects and celebrates the creative works of one of the twentieth centuries most influential figures literary master Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), who gathered an impressive array of loyal followers around him during his lifetime.

Rohini Kappadath, General Manager, Immigration Museum, a great admirer of Kahlil Gibran and his work, said,

“To many Gibran is a cultural icon and literary rebel. He took a great deal of inspiration from his experiences as a migrant, and strove constantly to resolve cultural and human conflict.”

The display features paintings, sketches, manuscripts and artifacts; many of his art works have not been seen in this country before, and they are surprising.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

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Detail: Installation Photo of Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, photo by Carolyn McDowall

When you read Gibran’s legacy of enlightening words it is not surprising they have never been out of print. They affected the lives of some of the most influential figures of our times including John F. Kennedy and Indira Gandhi, John Lennon, Elvis Presley and David Bowie.

His works published in over 100 languages and dialects, has meant that Khalil Gibran is considered the third most popular poet of all time, after England’s playwright Will Shakespeare (1564-1616) and China’s Taoist Philosopher Lao-tzu (604 – 531 BC).

There are numerous plaques of his most famous sayings on display, the many themes coming from his much-admired masterpiece of religious inspiration his most famous book; The Prophet.

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Detail: Installation – Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, photo by Carolyn McDowall

My favourite art work was the stunning sketch of the women in his life … of whom he said.

“Women opened the windows of my eyes and the doors of my spirit. Had it not been for the woman-mother, the woman-sister, and the woman-friend, I would have been sleeping among those who seek the tranquility of the world with their snoring.”

Mary Elizabeth Haskell (1873–1964) was his friend, the society lady with great connections who enabled and emboldened him to develop his artistic interests by providing him with both emotional and financial support.

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Detail: Installation – Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, photo by Carolyn McDowall

She also helped Gibran to edit The Prophet.

There is no doubt The Prophet is a ‘treasury of counsel on human life, giving uplift and joy to millions’. It is certainly a work, which has passed from one generation to another in my family – we adore his brilliant insights into our humanity

Detail: The Face of Almustafa, The Prophet, courtesy Gibran Museum

Detail: The Face of Almustafa, The Prophet, courtesy Gibran Museum

Migrating to America as a young man during the 1890’s, Kahlil Gibran rose to prominence through his poems, prose and art works. Since his death, Khalil Gibran has expanded his following, as people discovered his life was shaped by tolerance, warmth and love.

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

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Detail: Installation – Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, photo by Carolyn McDowall

In New York, Khalil Gibran became the Leader of the Lebanese Literary circle between World War 1 and II. From the middle of the twentieth century as printers around the world expanded his reach, his words appealed to everyman and everywoman wherever they were accessible.

Kahlil Gibran portrait: "Collection of the Telfair Museum of Art, Gift of Mary Haskell Minus"

Kahlil Gibran portrait: “Collection of the Telfair Museum of Art, Gift of Mary Haskell Minus”

“One of my dearest dreams is this—somewhere, a body of work, say 50 or 75 pictures will be hung together in a large city, where the people would see and perhaps love them” he said.

The Prophet is a book always near my side, so I can drink from its wisdom when times are hard.

There is a galley proof on display covered with Gibran’s annotations for his publisher

… stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow

The Garden of the Prophet, the follow up to his best-seller The Prophet was published posthumously in 1933 and gives its name to the exhibition.

It narrates Almustafa’s discussions with nine disciples following his return.  Then there are The Storm, Stories and Prose Poems, The Beloved Reflections on the Path of the Heart, Jesus; The son of Man, The Voice of Kahlil Gibran and more.

Kahlil Gibran, The Archer (1923), Illustration for The Prophet, Watercolour courtesy and © Gibran Museum, Signed lower left: “K.G.” Created in New York Acquired by the Gibran National Committee in 1933 upon Gibran’s will from March 13, 1930 (New York)

Kahlil Gibran, The Archer (1923), Illustration for The Prophet, Watercolour courtesy and © Gibran Museum, Signed lower left: “K.G.” Created in New York, Acquired by the Gibran National Committee in 1933 upon Gibran’s will from March 13, 1930 (New York)

The paperback versions of Gibran’s works served to spread his wondrous words world wide.

As the legendary status of Khalil Gibran has grown exponentially into the twenty first century and our own time, so have his millions of admirers continued to grow.  In his reflection on death he urges…

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?…

… For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

In its final passage, The Prophet Almustafa the chosen and the beloved, reflects on his life and prays ‘in the silences of the soul’.

Memorial to Lebanese-American poet, artist and philosopher Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) at Washington, DC

Memorial to Lebanese-American poet, artist and philosopher Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) at Washington, DC

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018

Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, courtesy Museums Victoria

Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, courtesy Museums Victoria

Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet

28 November – 17 March 2019

Immigration Museum,
400 Flinders St, Melbourne

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